It was a brisk day outside the class. I would have given anything to be out there right now. To allow the wind crawl under the edges of my jacket and get me to give a shudder. Then another. That feeling that says “I am alive!”
I will soon be, but first I needed to complete this test. I look back at the question paper in front of me. “Write 2 full pages on the psychology of crowds.”
I could see the instructor way up in front. He seemed lost in his own world. There was a low hum in the class. Something more than the heater that kept the room slightly warm.
I could do without the extra heat as I could feel my head overheating from my thoughts.
I have botched it up again. Just as before. How many times. Three or four? Too few considering how long I have been around.
Today I have no interest in crowds. I almost wanted to rip the question paper in two and walk out of the room. But then what? Spend the rest of the day thinking. I need to get away from my head. I stay because this is something to do to have a respite from thinking about her – about what might have been. But I botched it up. Again.
“An hour more.” The instructor said from the front.
The rumble and mumble in the room grew slightly louder. It was as if he had woken up the students who then decided to shuffle their feet, shift in their seats and nudge their desks.
What’s an hour to me? I still have the rest of the day to think. And then the whole of tomorrow. And the day after.
The maddening crowd. Wasn’t that Shakespeare. Or Hardy.
I look outside the window again. A guy had stopped under a tree not far off. He had a dog on a leash. Big dog. It looked well groomed. Maybe the dog felt my gaze, because it turned round and met it. It bared its teeth and started growling. I didn’t break eye contact. The growl became an uncomfortable but low bark every few seconds. Can it sense the religious-like quiet of a test hall? It’s owner decided to move off. He didn’t even give me a look.
A man with a dog.
I have never had a dog. I have thought of getting one in the past. But never got round to it.
I have been told it’s a “chick-magnet”: a guy with a dog. I wasn’t looking to attract a thousand ladies. Just keep one, and keep her happy, and keep her close, that would have done for me. Do you ever see dogs in crowds? Maybe not. Or maybe it’s the police dogs to control the crowd?
There must be many guys with dogs out there.
I don’t know why I couldn’t get the dog out of my mind.
I needed to write a 2-pager on the psychology of crowds. But it seems I can’t see the crowd for the dog: the dog and the man. The wind seemed to have picked up outside. Then a light drizzle started. The man and his dog hurried past in the same direction they had appeared from initially. The dog looked briefly in my direction. I thought I saw recognition in its eyes, but it was went out of view almost immediately.
It was as if the man with the dog was the advance guard of a troop or crowd. Because shortly after people started streaming past. Most with their heads bowed low and leaning forward against the drizzle. Only one or two carried umbrellas. I guess the weather prediction for the day had failed them.
I tapped my pen on the edge of the table. What do I care for crowds. Does a crowd of thoughts in one head behave like a human crowd? Or an animal crowd running on instinct and maybe fear? All heading in one direction towards some precipice?
I looked outside again because I heard a bark that almost sounded familiar. The man and the dog were under the tree outside the window again. The dog was looking at me. Just looking. No hint of the hostility demonstrated earlier.
“Thirty minutes left.”
Maybe I should make an attempt to write something down. I just couldn’t think of anything else.
The dog and the man and the girl.
The dog and the man.
The dog and the man on a roof?
Where had that come from?
I shook my head.
Actually it was the man and the 3 legged dog on a roof.
I remember now. It was from a movie I had seen. I couldn’t for the life of me remember the title. But it opened with a man and a 3 legged dog on a roof. Far above the madening crowd. It was at night. And he had lost everything. He was angry with God, or maybe he had given up on God and wanted to end it all. Did a lightening strike him and the dog?
Maybe that was me. But I had no 3 legged dog. I haven’t lost everything, but I have lost the one thing that mattered most. Does that mean the same thing? Does the one important thing represent everything? But that movie had a happy ending for the chap. He got his job back, got the girl, got his groove back.
But I remember there was a twist in the tale. Some friend of his who had thumbed his nose at him and who had it all together at the beginning of the movie had lost everything by the end and was standing on the same roof with only the 3-legged dog for company.
Was I the guy at the beginning or the end of the movie? Closer to the chap at the end. But of course, I have never had it all together, so I couldn’t claim to have lost everything. But if the one thing that mattered the most represented everything, then I guess I have lost it all. Maybe my senses as well.
But still up there on the roof, he was definitely not part of the maddening crowd below. Rushing who knows where. One in movement. One in thought. Going some place.
I couldn’t be bothered about the psychology of crowds. I think I will write instead about the psychology of the individual with a crowd of thoughts. I outlined the 2-pager in my head. There had to be a beginning, a middle, and an ending. I will start with the cause. Love, attraction, call it what you will. That’s why I am here in my head. Trying but not succeeding. Trying to get away. Then there is the dog. And the man. And the maddening crowd of thoughts. There is no closure. None that I can think of. I will end the paper as I started it: abruptly.
“10 minutes more. Please tidy up. I will be going round on the dot to collect your booklets. You can of course bring it to me if you are done.”
A few students get up. Some scribbled even faster in their answer booklets.
I got up, took the few steps to the front of the class and handed over my booklet.
I made eye contact with the instructor.
“Hello Mr. Ayodele.”
I made my way back up to my seat. He had told us to wait a little after the test for some information he had to pass along concerning the rest of the semester.
The instructor was scanning through the content of a booklet. I was sure it was mine. He shook his head as he read through quickly.
“That’s A-grade stuff right here sir. A-grade stuff.” He said glancing up briefly in my direction.
I don’t care. I was far above the maddening crowd. But the crowd of thoughts in my head was maddening.
A crowd of thoughts about her.
(May 8th, 2015. 8:30AM)