The Victim

Chapter Three: Ascent

Teamwork

The monotony train gains speed as we cruise through the first month of class. The slimy teacher becomes ever more creepy. My team project stresses me to new levels. We talk to each other online, using our phones. The first week, we assigned the tasks and agreed to have the work done for the next week. The second week I had my work done, and asked them how they were doing. There was no answer right until the day before we were supposed to deliver. “i don’t get how to do this?” texted one of them. The other two simply said nothing. I tried to explain how to research basic facts about a topic, and how to write a simple report. But no, that didn’t stick. After a fruitless one-hour conversation with a completely useless human being, I told him “nevermind, I’ll do it.” How the hell did these people get to last year?

I finished his part in two hours. Then I made myself a coffee and finished the other two parts. “It’s done,” I texted them sometime during dusk when decent people are asleep. “Ok, I can upload it,” offered generously the useless teammate. The other two had the decency to remain quiet. It really annoyed me to see his smug offer for help. “No,” was all I restrained myself to answer. The next day the teacher spoke to each of the groups about their projects. “I think you can do better, guys,” she said. I agree, I wasn’t my finest work.

“We should try to improve for the next delivery,” says one of the teammates in person. “And where were you when I asked?” I say furiously. He shrugs his shoulders. “We should plan ahead next time,” offers as invaluable advice another teammate. I breathe deeply and focus on not going bats-word crazy on them. “Look,” I say. “I’m going to do all the work. You people just stay out of my way.” Two of them stay silent, knowing this is the best they could hope for. “But isn’t that, like, I don’t know… I’ll feel guilty,” starts the other. “Don’t worry. Just… think you owe me a favor. I can ask something of you in the future.”

The two silent ones smile, pleased like good future bureaucrats. The other barely tries to stop me, saying “Well, if that’s what you want.” Yes it is. If they tried to help, they would only interfere. Shortly after our little conversation, I have class with the creepy, slimy professor. He waltzes into the room smiling. He looks at the girls like they are his harem. Today I learned he gives great grades to girls who agree to, ehm, how to put it, “show him the goods.” Even though I expected something like that, I now find him even more repulsive. “Good morning class,” he greets.

Everyone greets him back, except for me. I think he realizes, but I don’t care. I think he knows I don’t like him. Class starts off as always. He begins peddling his pedant pedagogy. I turn off my brain and take off to dreamland. Then suddenly, amidst all his babbling, I distinguish him saying the date our constitution was signed. And it’s wrong. I never raise my arm, but this time I feel like I have to. First timidly, then with more vigor, I stretch my arm upward. “Yes?” he asks irritated, as though I was a male student.

“I-I think you got the date, wh-when the constitution was signed wrong,” I say. He smiles smugly. “Oh, I’m sorry,” he starts. “You must be mistaken. The date was—” “Yes, I know the date you said. But that was when it was first ratified, which was after it was signed. Look, it’s all in my phone.” I put it up, but of course no one can see it. I hear people beginning to type. He is clearly embarrassed that I called him out. “Ok, I made a mistake. We’re all humans after all, aren’t we?” he says, and his yes-men in the front nod. The people in the back of the class are watching kitten videos or playing some crappy online skinnerbox game, completely oblivious to what’s going on.

“I think we should be lenient with those who err, should we not?” he asks me. “You never know when you’re going to need other people’s help.” That’s a threat to me right there. People are smiling in blissful ignorance. Most either don’t care or don’t get what just happened. He quickly picks up where I interrupted him. “Did you hear that?” I whisper to my brunette friend. She nods. “I don’t like him either. But don’t worry about him.”

Don’t worry? How? I’m stupid, stupid, stupid. I should have stayed quiet. Why did I have to say anything? To spite him? My throat is dry. Maybe if I apologize… “Seriously, do not worry,” the brunette says again, putting her hand on my arm. Wait, is there something I’m missing here?