Oncoming Problems

Wallace felt the problem coming, and knew he needed to make an escape.

At the front of the room, the professor was outlining some abstract concept, examining every detail of it from every angle possible. Wallace wanted to stay, was terribly interested in the class, knew the professor was brilliant. But if he stayed, he knew it would be bad. He might blurt something out, unrelated to anything, terribly obscene, perhaps even insulting. It was there, lurking in his brain, no longer at the very back but sidling forward, getting ready.

In junior high, he hadn’t known when it would happen. Things would just fly out of his mouth, unbidden, and he would immediately flush with embarrassment. The other kids would laugh, either at what he said or at him. The teachers mostly just got angry. A couple had been understanding, but most sent him to the principal. It took a few trips to the school psychiatrist – on the odd day she was actually around – to get it diagnosed as a medical condition, and remove all the blemishes to his record. Even after that, though, the teacher still sent him to the office.

In high school, though, he had learned. Learned to feel it coming on – not always in time, but his fellow students were used to it, had had the condition explained a few times, and were always understanding. Sometimes it would still sneak up on him, and he would shout something, but by the time he graduated he was aware enough to duck out of class before anything happened.

In university, no one knew, and he preferred it that way. But then you had moments like these, where to his left he had a row full of students, and to his right the same, and it was pushing forward a little harder now and he wasn’t sure if he could get out in time. He stood, started mumbling “Excuse me,” to the students as he slid past them, leaving his notebooks and bag and his jacket on his seat, heading toward the door.

Wallace had just reached the end of the row when the professor said, “Am I boring you, young man?”

Wallace grimaced, swallowed that part of his brain he couldn’t control, and said, “N-no sir. Just a quick trip out.”

“Hm,” the professor said with obvious disdain, and turned back to lecture.

Wallace hurried to the door, turned toward the exit to the building, moving as fast as he could without running. He considered stopping by the professor’s office later, wondering whether he should explain the condition or not. Would it even be worth it? he though to himself. Would I get anything? Or would I just do more harm than good?

He reached the outside, started swearing, but quietly at least. It wasn’t demanding he look like a total crazy person. He knelt down as he did so while a group of freshman girls passed by, so they would think he was just stressed, not a total freak. When it passed, he stood again and started back inside.

He still hadn’t decided on whether or not to tell the professor. He would mull that one in his mind, in the area next to his constant battle, embarrassment, worry.


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