Tuesday, September 27, 2011

This Is Not A Test

University of Higher Learning Southern California. Life Drawing class. 10:27am

The model, 7 minutes into her pose is quite focused.  Her pose shows agility, and nearly perfect stillness. Music plays from a small radio, to keep her mind at ease.  And also to keep her awake.  She’s just returned from a trip overseas, and her inner clock is off.  Shanghai is 15 hours ahead of Los Angeles.  Needless to say, she had to fight extra hard to pose today.  But she felt pretty good.  And despite the jetlag, (and the water/ food poisoning she suffered on her trip) she refused to “call in” this morning. She very much liked this job—so in a way, posing was an effortless task, even though it was physically demanding.

“Dude—there’s a dude on campus, with a gun.” The blond boy chirped a bit too loudly to his darker skinned curly haired class mate.
 ”Wait, what?” The confused classmate managed to say in a whisper.
The art model’s ears perked up like a pooch.
“No way.”

The blonde boy pulls out his smart phone and shows it as proof. In an almost sotto voce tone he continued on. “There’s a gunman on campus. My mom just left this voice mail. She saw it on the news. She’s like, “I hope you’re not in the library! Listen to this.”
A helicopter swarms above the building, as if on cue. Suddenly the model feels like she’s in an episode of M*A*S*H, and the two classmates are jokesters like Hawkeye and Trapper. She prays to God, that they are joking.  Her stomach begins to cramp. The two classmates replay mom’s voice mail.
Their eyes grow.

“ShiT…holy shiT.”  The consonant leaped out of the curly haired boy’s mouth and right into the heart of the model. Her heart beat increased, as if she were walking 10.0 incline on the treadmill.
“What the mothafuck, are these dudes talking about? Lord Jesus, not today.” The model took a deep breath, and concentrated on flexing her core muscles. Beads of sweat sprang from her body, and fell like Niagra.

*The ART model, who must always be the epitome of cool in an art studio, suddenly had no control of her emotions. Or her body.  She felt frightened. She felt gassy. Confused, and worse—vulnerable. Her perfect pose began to wobble. Her knees were like Jell-O bowls on display at the hospital cafeteria.  She didn’t know if these two jack offs were just kidding.  She wasn’t one to give in to hysterics. But she wasn’t a dummy either.*

 ”I may be jet lagged, after just returning from China. But I’m not deaf. And I know what my body feels. Something isn’t right.
Suddenly the door to the room slams shut, and locks from the outside.  The professor, who seems unfazed still raises an eyebrow. “Hmph. I guess, maybe maintenance is working on the door?”

“He doesn’t know,” thought the art model. Or maybe like the other students in this class, he’s become desensitized to the words: there’s a gunman on campus.
“Lets take a 5 everyone.” The professor said, clapping his hands.

A few students causally open the door and go outside the classroom. Fucking idiots.
The model swooped in on Hawkeye and Trapper.
“Ya’ll just fucking around, or is there something going on? I over heard you two.”
“No, it’s real. There’s a dude on campus with a gun. Near the library. We’re on lockdown. Guess the world is coming to an end.”
“Well I can’t be naked if it does.” The model quickly added in earnest. The two students got a kick out of her, and laughed.
“Wow, you have a great sense of humor. Guess that’s good if you think you’re gonna die…” Blondie says, a bit too chipper.
“Yeah. I can’t go out like that.”

The model said, her eyes checking out every possible exit of the room.  She’d seen enough action and survival movies to think ahead.  And she thought, “If this mothafucka comes in here, he’s gonna get a hell of a fight—this ain’t no video game. I will not sit here and wait to die.  Fuck that.”  But she couldn’t leave the classroom. No one should.
“Is everything alright out there?” She asked the professor.
“What do you mean?” he replied.
Shit. He didn’t know yet.
The professor opened the door and stepped out. A moment later he shut the door quickly.  She looked to the model.
“No. Everything is not all right.”
The model let out a silent fart. 
“Maybe I should call someone.”
She dialed her emergency contact to fill them in on what she knew. Just in case.
The professor returned. He did not look happy.
“Why am I always the last to find out these things!” The professor exclaimed, rubbing his forehead. “All of you, get back inside. Shit…just, stay cool…and we’ll wait for word. But get back inside, all of you now.”

So it was official. There was in fact a threat to public safety. The model frantically searched for news via Twitter. No one had all the details, but one thing was for certain.  The unknowing was nerve wracking.

“Lets just…go back to drawing.” Said the professor. The man in charge.
There weren’t many options for the group. Speculation is the enemy of calm. And the only way to stay calm, was to focus on the art.
Focus on the art.
And so she said a prayer, and exhaled. “In shallah, we’ll all be okay.” She made the sign of the holy cross and went on to her next pose.
“This one is 20 minutes everyone. 20 minutes.”

These are all true events. This morning at CSUN (California State University Northridge) there was an alleged gunman. The campus was locked down, and all were given notice to take extreme precaution. Eventually we were allowed to vacate the premises, not allowed to return.  The hunt for the gunman was still on, when I left at 4pm.  No shots were fired. No one was harmed (to my knowledge) but one thing is for certain: THERE’S A GUNMAN ON CAMPUS will loosen your bowels.
So now, by grace and mercy—I am in the safety of my home.  No weapon prospered against me—-and neither will insomnia or jet lag. Cuz I drove straight to Trader Joes. Grabbed a bottle of Tito’s Vodka, and now? I’m sipping. And praying. And sipping.

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