By – Ajay Patri
The class is boring and he feels exhausted. He sits on the fourth row with his eyes half-closed, his head drooping. The professor stands in front of the screen, talking in a monotonous drone about ancient obscure cases without a single pause. Her voice wafts over the length of the class, a mass of students struggling to pay attention. Some of them have given up, succumbing to the comforts of the wooden desk in front of them and the half-realised dreams of the night before. The others make a valiant effort to stay awake, some of them going so far as scribbling in their notebooks with a feverish obsession.
He looks at his watch and groans in a low voice at realising that fifty more minutes would be spent in the confines of this classroom. He frets about in the uncomfortable chair, his unease compounded by the warmth of the day. The creaking ceiling fans are useless; the ceiling is too high and the room too large for them to have any palpable effect on the sweating, somnambulant crowd of students below.
He looks around the room, desperate to find something to capture his attention and prevent him from nodding off. He meets the eyes of some of his classmates; eyes that are empathetic to his plight but powerless to alleviate his suffering. He briefly considers going off to sleep but shakes off the notion as soon as it formed. A warm breeze flows in through the open window, making him squirm and shudder.
He looks out. From his vantage position in the first floor classroom, he sees a clear sky which is a brilliant blue, not a shred of a cloud scarring its flawless surface. The tree tops outside are immobile, as if they are enjoying a siesta in still, hot air.
A sudden desire to be outside overcomes him. He looks at the outside world with wistful eyes, growing even more restless.
His eyes move from the open window to the plain white wall that stretches across one side of the room, punctuated only by the window which by now has become a beacon of freedom for his sleep-deprived mind. He imagines walking right through the wall as if it is a curtain, parting effortlessly at his touch and exposing him to the bright sunshine outside. The whole premise seems silly to him at first but the more he thinks about it, the more plausible it becomes until it acquires the proportions of a hypothesis, there to be disproved by the world. His thoughts coalesce, forming a solid chain which at once seems absurd and wildly exciting to him. A tiny voice of reason protests feebly but his beleaguered brain sweeps it aside with contempt for what he believes is a sure sign of cowardice. The overwhelming desire to be outside is now backed by a mad need to test his theory, fuelled on by a potent combination of the heat and his own sleepiness.
He gets up and starts walking to the door, the furthest away from the wall, outlining his actions in his mind. He looks at the professor but she is immersed in reading from her presentation and does not notice him. A few students, the ones who are still awake, follow his journey; disinterested and bored. It is not uncommon for a person to use the bathroom in the middle of the class.
He stops when he reaches the door and turns around. A little more than fifteen feet in front of him lies the wall, plain and innocuous. He stands there for a while, waiting for the people in the room to start noticing him. An audience for his audacity. Eyes start turning to look at him soon enough. Eventually, the professor, mildly aware of a disturbance in her class, looks up at him distractedly.
Her voice, questioning and unsure, spurs him on. Without looking at either her or the class, he breaks into a run, fixated on the wall ahead. He is vaguely aware of a gasp from somewhere in the room. Someone shouts something inaudible, maybe words of surprise or encouragement.
The wall approaches all too soon and he instinctively lowers his right shoulder, bracing for an impact that he, at that moment, with an all-encompassing conviction and a belief completely unfounded on reason, knows will not come.