Professor Medusa

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Professor Medusa
by Kendra Leonard

Medusa wakes and
wraps her hair, coiling the coils
under, blinding them.

Or at least that’s what the students think. I know, because
at least once a semester some kid tries to imagine my morning routine
for their final creative writing project, and the instructors like to show me.

It’s not too far off.

I have a nice set of turbans for everyday.
I could shave my head, but I’d look just as strange on campus.
Besides, the snakes take a while to grow back,
and they really itch while they do.
They only grow about four inches long,
like well-kept dreads.
I guess they are dreads, in a literal sense.
I like the peach turban best; it goes with my complexion well.

But the snakes are blind anyway.
Otherwise they’d be such a nuisance,
hissing at every butterfly or basketball player,
grabbing at things in the supermarket.
They’re just there to shock. Silly things. Stupid Athena.

I do have to cover my eyes.
In the 80s, I wore fashionable sunglasses:
Ray-Bans; they used to advertise
with vampires to lure in the goth crowd.
But then I found colored contacts worked,
and I could go swimming in them.
Mine are plain brown.
I get them on the internet,
since I can’t see an eye doctor.

Last Monday my class had to have The Talk:
what I have is a disability, not a superpower.
Students and I have this talk frequently.
It’s no secret who I am, I’m right there on the
faculty web page: Greek Language and Literature,
dual appointment with Anthropology.
Not a superhero. No superpowers. It’s a curse.
But then we have to talk about disability studies:
let’s not call it a curse, says one well-meaning
young woman. It’s just—Difference.
Where are you placing your accent? I ask, but she doesn’t get it.
Eventually they believe me.

My chair doesn’t really get it, but the dean does.
I want to get tenure here and stay,
so I have to work them both.
My chair does Latin American folklore.
He doesn’t want to think of the chupacabra as a dog
with a disability
or something.
So we avoid the issue.

My dean has a little crush on me,
I think. He always asks about my sisters,
what I’m doing on the weekend.
Grading, I say. Sometimes that’s even true.
But I also like to go out.
I go to the nightclubs where my students go,
and I watch them.
Keep an eye out, so to say.

Fine, if you have to ask.
That linebacker who left school last month?
He tried to rape a woman
majoring in economics in the
parking lot of the club on Maple Street.
The one downtown where the bouncer
does too much coke? Yeah, that one.
I was wearing sunglasses, I always do
when I’m out patrolling.
(Yeah, it sounds a little too Buffy to me, too.
But whatever.)

Well, what? Mr. Linebacker is still there.
They have a gravel parking lot, you know.
And my name does mean “protectress.”
They forget that part.
But I don’t.

She places each lens
into her lovely grey eyes,
and watches, guarding.

1 thought on “Professor Medusa

  1. A creative writing lesson in how to draw on one’s own experience creatively and horrendously. This Greek Language and Literature professor draws it out in detail–the snakes itching as they grow back, her having to cover her eyes with sunglasses or contacts (to keep from turning others to stone)–and then elaborates on her “curse” of “well-kept dreads” on and off-campus. A tale of mythic proportions about how introspection can create monstrosity in oneself and others.

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