“Studies have shown that there is an element of goodness that is embedded and psychologically branded into us which then manifests itself into various forms that we interpret today such as love, compassion, wisdom, justice…”
“Justice? What justice?” mumbled Aria, who unintentionally interrupted her English Lit professor’s lecture. She was a predominantly quiet student who never quite spoke up much except for situations that called for attention, one of which being one that affected her African American community. Her long, layered black hair was neatly tucked behind her toned shoulder blades as her plump lips formed into an unflattering pout. She was rather short in height, in addition to her sitting behind towering centers for the University’s basketball team, therefore making it almost impossible to hear her soft-spoken voice or to even see her naturally wavy curls from afar.
“Excuse me, Ms. Moore but I sincerely apologize if anything that I said offended you, but to clarify the concept of justice in this excerpt would be the moral balance that determines righteousness and fairness based off of the people that we encounter on a day to day basis.” calmly explained Professor Matthews, a true fourteen year veteran in his trade who worked relentlessly for his students in order to teach them his own personal passion for teaching and the arts.
“Well then in relation to the horrific events that transpire in America today, how would you explain this so called idea of justice?” said Aria, who was now fully alert. Her piercing brown eyes narrowed in on his between the rather stocky athletes.
The class was deathly silent. Only a very selected few had paid enough attention to Aria in the past to even realize that she barely ever spoke up in class, let alone around the campus. She was different, friendly but different. She was a strange case of a loner who was cool with everybody yet never extended her welcome. Yeah everyone liked her but they never tried to get to know her beyond just the basic background information: name, age, and relationship status. The silence that now flooded the classroom brought out only the faint sounds of adolescent breathing and the slightly bothersome ticking of the old clock above the chalkboard.
Professor Matthews gently sighed while lowering his head down in sheer thought. His skin was an umber color, much like the smooth brown liquor that was downed in an alcoholic’s throat in a bar. Faint crease lines formed just below his hairline as his thoughts were trying to form together. After a brief pause, which felt like forever, he looked up with a slight pain written across his eyes along with a mix of disbelief.
“This tragedy is one of many that has not only been systematically hidden for decades on end but is also tolerated by the same people that we as a society are supposed to trust with our lives. Law enforcement as a whole is not the enemy, but those who act on their own free will, using their badge as a mask to trick and deceive others with their own personal bigotry are the true criminals. When taking into account the idea that black lives matter, does not in anyway take away the struggles that other cultures and nationalities face either. Everyone matters and that’s not a cliché it’s just that the recent rise in officer and civilian involved shootings has predominantly raised in recent years which has called for a united front among the African American community. Not only as a teacher but also as a human being, I never want any of you to feel as though your voice has no purpose because it does and referring back to Ms. Moore’s question about justice, I would personally classify justice as limitless. You see we would like to believe that justice is about being fair, but in reality life isn't fair and the justice system today isn't a measure of fairness but is a system built on the need of the betterment of the general public. However we aren't the general public: law enforcement, state officials, those who determine our society’s rules and regulations are the general public because they, in essence, decide the functionality of our people. I, for one, am never going to bad mouth the officers who on a day to day basis protect and carry out their job performance to the best of their ability, but like anything else in life you have to understand that there are evils in this world that are beyond anyone's control. Taking in mind the severity of this social ill, I want all of you to dig deep within yourself and write a 3 page, single spaced essay on the impacts of social injustice in any area of the world of your choosing. This essay isn’t necessarily about the overall grade but more or less about the content and the story behind the piece. I sincerely look forward to reading all of your thoughts about this issue and seeing how all of you intend to expand on this topic as well.”
As Professor Matthews concluded his speech, the distasteful sound of obnoxious school bell snapped everyone out of their daze. Still in awe at the beautifully well thought out speech, the class individually rose while engaging in a slow applause of gratitude but as soon as the reality of being a college student set in so did the desperate need to leave the class. As each student left the class, they hollered and high fived their professor on the way out, thanking him for so eloquently formulating his words to fit their own views about the situation. While the rest of the class hightailed out, Aria stayed behind quietly waiting for a moment to speak with her professor. When the last student left it was just her and Mr. Matthews left.
“Aria, is there anything that I can help you with?” Mr. Matthews asked once his eyes were finally fixated on her. He was a fairly good looking man for his 40’s with a subtle clean cut low fade with a slightly above average build. He had dark brown eyes and partially tapered eyebrows. Even though he was one of the many African American professors that taught at the prestigious Golden Providence University in San Coronado Valley, his teaching style was unlike any other. He was a lot more outspoken than his colleagues, who for the sake of their job, chose to be more cautious and whenever he spoke the audience was moved by him, hauntingly drawn into his stories and passions about things such as Shakespearean literature and the inner workings of the great F. Scott Fitzgerald. Sitting in on his lectures became a wonderful experience for aspiring students rather than the bland subpar lectures that his colleagues performed.
“First things first I would like to thank you again for giving me your honest opinion about police brutality in America today, it’s quite refreshing to hear someone’s true opinion.” Aria genuinely said maintaining firm eye contact with his chin since he stood a good 6 inches above her.
“No problem Ms. Moore, sometimes people find it much more helpful to gain different perspectives.”
“That’s true, but I actually wanted to ask you something pertaining to a piece that I’ve been working on. It’s nothing fancy and it has no title yet but I want to make it as relatable to young adults as possible. It is going to be about…”
“That won’t work out very well”, he bluntly stated.
Aria scrunched up her face making her eyebrows raised up ever so slightly.
“Well why not?” she defensively responded.
“As a teacher I can observe certain aspects about each individual student that differs them from one another and with you I have come to realize that honesty is an important quality that separates you from others in your age group. That being said personally I don't believe that you have enough life experiences necessary to fulfill your goal with completing this piece.”
Aria became slightly flustered with his straightforward advice but strongly took it to the chin like a pro.
“What do you mean?”
“Aria in all my years of teaching I don’t think I’ve ever had a student who worked as diligently as you. While the rest of your classmates went out to fraternity parties and movie premieres, you spent all your free time tied up in libraries and sacrificing your lunches for the betterment of your education, which by the way isn’t a bad thing at all...it’s just not normal.”
Aria took a deep breath as she tried to digest what her professor was trying to say to her. Am I that bland? she thought to herself. Aria brought her slender fingers up to the bridge of her button nose and proceeded to massage it in circular patterns. After a few moments of skepticism she soon got some clarity as she could finally piece together her thoughts once again.
“Sir I honestly don’t feel like the places that my peers go to is my kind of scene. I don’t consider myself as nerdy or a bookworm, but I just find a much greater pleasure in being more to myself. I can handle myself well in crowded places it’s just that sometimes the feeling becomes a little bit overwhelming. I have people skills but I don’t always feel the need to talk to everyone all at once. Does that sound crazy?” she asked.
He shook his head softly, “No, not at all. It just makes you human.”
“I just want to leave a lasting impact with people. A legacy. Something to be known for and loved for and I think that by writing this piece will give me the opportunity to do so. So by all means please explain to me what exactly would you propose?”
He casually walked around the corner of his mahogany desk and sat down with one leg propped on the front corner while the other leg casually rested on the floor. He folded his hands and neatly placed them over his knee cap and said with a shrug, “Just learn to go out more and be much more adventurous.”
“That’s it?” she asked. I could have gotten that advice straight out of a fortune cookie for what it’s worth, she thought to herself.
“Yeah that’s really all there is to it. You see kids today are so bent on keeping up appearances with social media and sharing the latest videos on BookFace, ...Facebook, that they lose sight of the world around them. Think about it when was the last time you went out voluntarily without checking your phone. Or actually started a conversation with a complete stranger just to get to know them. You see small details like that matter more than you realize which is why I think that your ideas will begin to flow more fluidly once you begin to look beyond yourself.”
That actually didn’t sound half bad. “Okay, that sounds like a great idea thank you. I really wish that we could continue this conversation further but I should really be heading over to my dorm. My roommate is throwing a scary movie marathon and as much as I don’t want to watch it, I probably should. You know for inspirational purposes.” said Aria with a sly grin.
“See that’s the spirit and if you ever feel the need to seek out more advice, my office hours are posted on the school’s website along with my work email. Feel free to send me in any rough drafts that need revising. And on that note I should also be heading out too, my wife makes a mean sweet potato casserole but occasionally gets agitated when I come home too late, rightfully so, making the casserole too cold. But anyway have a great rest of your evening Ms. Moore and when in doubt, just breathe.” With that Mr. Matthews gathered up the rest of his papers into his briefcase, gave a short head nod in her direction, and then proceeded out of the widely spaced doors.
Aria, now left alone, swallowed her ego and took in his kind words. Maybe expanding my horizons would be a good thing, also maybe Piper Chapman will put a hold on being a smuggling kingpin on Netflix so I can concentrate on my story. With a new goal set in mind, she picked up her mini leather bag, which contained her Mac laptop and her, other nonessentials, and left out the door with a huge grin on her face.
Aria walked across the spacious campus along the quad and looked at the great beauty set before her eyes. The lush green trees illuminated bright orange rays from the protruding sunset in the distance. Japanese maple bushes, a particularly dome-like shrub covered with red blossomed maples imported from halfway across the world, lined the cobblestone walkway that led the path to her dorm. Besides the faint sound of the birds melodic chirping between the tree branches, her short-wedged heels made a consistent clicking sound that filled her mind. *Click, Clack, Click, Clack*. Normally the sound would have seemed irritating under different circumstances, but with all that was going through her creative mind the sound became somewhat therapeutic.
Lost in thought and apparently in time, Aria managed to find herself at the front of her dorm room. The door was detailed with old etchings of graffiti nonsense carelessly washed over and some small paint chippings. You know you would think that with how much this University makes off of student tuitions and local business sponsorships, that they could at least afford new dorm doors, she thought to herself. She raised her petite hand and just as she was about to knock, her spunky roommate Regina opened the door. Regina was Filipino with short jaded hair that barely reached to the top of her shoulder blades. She was spontaneous and careless, but was good willed and always had great intentions at heart. Her voice though was occasionally a bit overwhelming at times since it could reach high-pitched frequencies due to the fact that her thick accent would sometimes peek through. She was Aria’s exact opposite. She was more courageous than Aria basking in the glories of being desirable to men, when Aria seemed boring Regina became endlessly fascinating, she was also a foreigner (opposite to Aria who was born in a small populated town called Ashford, New York just along the northern edge of the county) making her accent seem so sensational to close-minded people who think English is the main language in every country. But in all she understood Aria and in many ways they were close friends.
“Aria!” Regina squealed with excitement, “The movie marathon is about to commence!” She grabbed Aria’s hand and enclosed it into hers; whisking her through the clutter they called their room. Old movie cases decorated the floor along with half popped popcorn kernels. The dimly lit room made stepping over all those objects such an obstacle for Aria as she stumbled and groaned all along the way. Between Regina’s squeals of excitement and Aria’s now throbbing foot, the couch suddenly seemed to have found a new companion. As she sat down rubbing her damaged foot, she watched Regina’s tiny framed body sway from the microwave to their stacked movie shelf.
“Alright so I narrowed down the movie pool to a close three-way tie between The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the Thirteenth, and Final Destination.” she said after juggling between the three movies.
“Definitely Final Destination, but we have to watch the fifth installment”, said Aria while massaging the inner arc of her foot.
“Because for once in a scary movie black people actually live longer than all the white people.”
Regina giggled but with her thick accent she sounded like she snorted a little bit as Aria laughed at her own humor.
“Oh come on there’s gotta be some good scary movies with black people in them.” Regina finally said once she regained her composure.
“Oh yeah like the ones where we either die in the first ten minutes of the movie or we are alive long enough to crack some jokes to spice up the storyline from the wack white dad jokes.”
“Whatever seeing the blatant stupidity in horror movies is the bomb anyway.” said Regina as she plopped down on the couch with her bowl of buttered popcorn in hand. “So what's been going on lately? You’ve been tied down to that computer for ages just staring at the same paragraph you typed like a month ago.”
Aria sighed, “I don’t know between struggling to write this book to my apparent lack in college social skills, I’ve kind of been on the outs with my creativity.”
“Well I mean there is this party going on at the quad tomorrow, maybe you should stop by. Great music, some bomb ass snacks, and hot guys...well not as hot as Ian. Ian Bernstein was Regina’s Moroccan boyfriend. He was not only a sight for sore eyes but he was also financially stable. He was one of the good guys who understood the meaning of hard work and, despite the booming revenue that his dad made in the international film industry; Ian always managed to treat everyone as equals.
Aria sighed as she took some of the popcorn kernels in her hand, “I don’t know Reg and besides even if I wanted to go my sense of style is pretty...subpar.”
“Well how about before our early morning Econ class, we stop over at Bosion Buys and get you a whole new wardrobe. I know your scholarship money came in last month from that essay contest and you have done nothing with it yet so let’s put it to good use.” Regina said with a smirk. She was also huge into fashion, well ever since she binged watched a solid 22 seasons full of America’s Next Top Model.
“Sounds like a great plan”, Aria said as the credits rolled onto the screen.
Tomorrow will be a great day to start fresh.