speaking up 3

Here are speaking up and speaking up 2.

More events in my life:

I am on the metro in Washington, DC. It is not rush hour. I am reading my book.

I suddenly realize  as the metro stops, my car is empty. I am the only one in the car. One man gets on. I am hyperalert. He walks down the car and sits next to me.

The car starts up. I stare at my book.

“Hi.” he says, “What’s your name?”

I don’t answer.

“C’mon. What’s your name?”

“I am reading my book. I don’t want to talk.”

“C’mon, baby, be nice.”

I stand up, purse and book. “Excuse me.” I step by him and stand at the metro car door. I get off that car at the next stop and move to the next one with people on it. Shaking with both the threat and anger, that I have to deal with this.

2. I take a dance class in Washington, DC. I work at the National Institute of Health. I leave my car at NIH and ride the metro.

One night I get off the metro at NIH and I am riding up the escalator, with my backpack.

A man, clearly drunk, steps up on the escalator beside me, and says “Hi, baby, what’s your name?”

“LEAVE ME ALONE!” I snarl and stomp up the escalator. It is dark and there are very few people at the stop and in the lot. I am in danger from this drunk.

I am walking fast at the top, away from the escalator, when I hear running steps behind me. WHACK! He takes a swing at me and runs off. He hits my backpack and not me. I am screaming at him.

He is gone. I run to my car, get in, and sit there, hands on the wheel. Shaking. There is a part of me that wonders what I would do if he crossed the road in front of my car.

My next class is not dance. I take tae kwon do.

3. I have used my tae kwon do once so far. Where? In first year medical school.

No way, you say.

Yes, way.

We have lecture after lecture in the same hall. We usually sit in the same places. I am newly married. The guy behind me starts tickling my neck during a lecture, with a pen. I twitch a couple times and then hear muffled giggles and realize that it’s the person behind me.

I stiffen and wait until I am really ready. Breathe. The tickle comes. I snap a basic block back and forward: and have his pen.


The whole class turns towards us. The lecturer stops, staring. I am facing forward, holding the pen down low, not moving. He has the entire room staring at him, everyone but me. He doesn’t say a word. You could hear a …. pen…. drop.

The lecturer shakes his head and continues.

I keep the pen.

Just think, he’s a doctor.

I took the photograph when we were in Wisconsin. I went to UW Madison. I like being a badger.

Niels Ingwersen: My best professor

My best professor in college was Dr. Niels Ingwersen.

I went to the University of Wisconsin, Madison because it had a Scandinavian Department. I had gone to Denmark as an exchange student during my high school senior year. I had to come back and finish high school. I needed US and Virginia Government and Twelfth grade english. I chose to do them at the Community College instead of returning to high school.

I went to the Danish embassy in Washington DC and asked about colleges where I could continue to learn Danish. They recommended three: U WI Madison, U WA Seattle and Austin, TX. My parents said that Washington was too far away. I thought there was more chance to ski in Wisconsin, so that was the only college I applied to. Good thing I got in, right?

The first class I took in the Scandinavian Department was with Niels Ingwersen, his HC Andersen class. It was packed. It was known as a fun and informative class that would fulfill an english requirement. I was fascinated because Dr. Ingwersen talked about the politics, the economics, the story behind Hans Christian Andersen’s stories.

I begged permission to write stories myself for the required paper and he let me. I moved in to graduate student classes, because I wanted to take anything he would teach.

I took a class on the modern scandinavian novel. We had five students and him. It was on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 5 pm. None of us could stay awake. In the third class Niels said, “How about we move this class to peoples’ houses? We will take turns hosting and bring potluck.” We also brought wine and the class blossomed. Instead of three hours it ended up being 5 or 6. We would stray from literary criticism into politics, world events, economics, biology, whatever. It was fun!

We each had to choose a book to read. I was tired of books about depressed alcoholics and asked him for a recommendation. He said, “How about Livsens Ondskab?” Life’s Malice. Written in the late 1800s, it’s a mocking and dark comedy about the people in a small town and how funny and awful they are. I loved it.

I applied for a summer honors scholarship, to translate Livsens Ondskab. Niels was gone for the summer, to the U of WA. I sent him questions about the translation. “How much were you going to translate?” he asked. “All of it!” I said. I worked out that I needed to do five pages a day. Some days were quick and some were slow, slow, slow.

Niels was my favorite professor because he was not only a wonderful teacher but also a really nice person. Hard to find that delightful combination, but worth it if you do.


For the daily post prompt We can be taught!

The photo is my sister, about when I started college. I think Niels made me laugh that way.