Definitely, Maybe in Love(3)

By: Ophelia London

He arched his bushy eyebrows. “Pretty ambitious.”

I shrugged.

“So that means you’re ahead of schedule, credit-wise.”

Oh, please don’t ask me to be your aid. I’d rather take on another shift waiting tables at the country club than correct freshman papers.

“Have you ever considered picking up an econ minor? A few of your core classes cross over. It looks like you’re halfway there.”

This was a surprise. “I took the two required business classes,” I said, “but other than that, I don’t know much about economics.”

Masen toggled back to my proposal. “I know,” he said deliberately. “That’s my point.”

“Oh.” I swallowed, visions of seeing my name in a periodical vanishing like the Amazon rainforest. “How do you think an econ minor will help?”

“Did you do debate in high school?” he asked, which seemed out of left field.

“No,” I admitted.

“But you understand the concept?”

“You argue either side of an issue,” I began, hoping it sounded like I knew what I was talking about. “You have to know enough about the opposition to fight for both sides.”

“Exactly.” He pointed at my proposal on his screen. “That’s precisely what this needs. The opposition.”

Under my braids, the back of my neck tingled in alarm. The sensation spread up my throat and across my cheeks. A year ago, fearing that I wasn’t getting noticed in my classes or community, I’d made some pretty big changes. It wasn’t just the heavier work load or Green Peace marches, it was the braids, the vegetarian diet, the purposeful lack of a social life…all in the name of being taken seriously. Finally, I felt the part and looked the part. Everything should be falling into place by now. But if Masen, my advisor, still didn’t get how resolute I was, what more could I do?

I was starting to get that drowning feeling again.

“Professor Masen,” I began, “for the last two years, Environmental Science has been my life. Sustainable living, promoting free and healthy land, supporting the local EPA. I chose Stanford because of its liberal programs, and you’re saying you think I should—”

He lifted a hand to stop me. “I don’t mean for you to drive a Hummer or drill for oil. Sustainability is a critical issue, and I think you’ve got a handle on it. A clear understanding of the economic side will round out your research, give it some meat.” He pointed at the screen again. “Judging by your proposal, you’re too close to the subject. I need you to step back and get a new perspective.”

“Perspective,” I repeated, my head feeling heavy.

“In any arena, to truly best your opponents, you must understand them, inside and out. You have the heart, Spring, but you don’t have the business mind. Not yet.” Masen did his chin rub thing again. “You mentioned the EPA. What if you went the other way and studied up on the human impact, the benefits of land development?”

Before I followed my natural instinct to blurt out that there was no such thing, I forced myself to stop and think. Perhaps I couldn’t see Masen’s vision yet, but I trusted him. I kind of had to. The man held my academic future in the palm of his hand.

“The benefits of land development?” I paused, waiting for my brain to wrap around the concept.

“Talk to a few econ students,” he suggested, “or better yet, someone who knows the finer points of land development—that’s key. Delve into your research. Maybe then your proposal will flesh out and we can talk publication.”

That word again. Publication. It was intoxicating. Whether he was using it to guide me or manipulate me didn’t matter. It worked. “Whatever you say,” I replied, picking up my bag. “I’ll start on it right away.”

Masen slid on his glasses. “I look forward to hearing about your progress very soon. Let’s set up another meeting.”

After he gave me a few more instructions, I felt like clicking my heels together and giving a salute, but refrained and headed down the hall, dodging other overachievers as they rushed to class. Once the initial adrenaline was gone, though, panic set in. And by the time I was halfway home, I was in a pretty deep haze, my backpack feeling heavier with every step.

When would I have time to start a brand-new research project and maybe add a minor? Where, exactly, was I going to find a land tycoon at Stanford University? And more importantly: how much of my soul would I be willing to sell to learn from such a creature?

My focus was pulled to a U-Haul truck parked in front of the house across the street from mine. Three moving guys were unloading boxes. So I guessed the wannabe Big Bang Theory physics students had moved out. Too bad, I would miss their weekly explosions.