The First Day of School

Nice to meet you
Nice to meet you

Anthony Hopkins was at the top of the stairs, staring down at me.

Afraid and confused, I glance to the bulletin boards of Swift Hall, home of the graduate program in religious studies at the University of Chicago.

No longer were there posters for upcoming academic conferences or religious studies news, but strange mathematical equations written on faded yellowing paper.

I glance back up to Dr. Hannibal Lecter and feel faint. Reality is swimming away from me.

A hand from below grabs my arm, whispering, “Excuse me.”

I turn toward an older woman on the stair below.

In her low tones, “They are in the middle of shooting a scene. Can you wait here a minute?”

I remembered. They were filming a movie on campus, but I had been too consumed with my own terror to take an interest.

Gwyneth Paltrow stomped across the top of the stairs and ducked into what I believed was my classroom.

I whisper back, “This is my first day. Do you know where Professor Tanner’s Religious Eros course is being held?”  I felt like a fraud about to be exposed and expelled.

She answers, “Right where you’re headed. You just have to wait a few minutes and then you can go in.”

It was a disorienting first day of what had already been a disorienting year.

A few years earlier, I had given up on school. I was still working as a stripper and had dropped out of college after having racked up five semesters of Fs and over $10,000 in delinquent tuition fees.

Now I was at my dream school, the University of Chicago, feeling like a fraud, and waiting for Hannibal the Cannibal to let me enter my first graduate seminar.

I stood on the stairs and waited, still not completely certain if this was the manifestation of my greatest dream or the next act of a nightmarish delusion.

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