Although it’d taken me 2 months to finally creep out of my rut, it didn’t seem to affect the wealth of excitement which simmered happily as I strode down the bustling street, weaving my way through countless jostling bodies. Even the chilly rain which had just started to spatter on my cheeks and blanket the city with a depressive icing couldn’t hope to dampen my spirits. The day at the office had dragged on and on; a watched clock never moves. I gulped down the warming tea that I clasped between glove-clad hands, feeling it radiate down to my stomach and mingle with the hum of anticipation and fresh enthusiasm which seemed to singe and tingle in my fingertips. An old building came into view and I glanced at my watch to check how I was doing for time. I was still alright. Ten minutes early actually. Pushing open a wooden door, I found myself standing in a heavily ornate lobby, the sudden muffling silence physically calming. Everything was either wooden or marble; cherubim balanced on swirled pillars and exotic plants nestled in every corner. My eyes caught sight of the imposing dome ceiling and the hundreds of detailed paintings which lined its inside. It was magnificent.
Suddenly feeling somewhat small and underdressed, I hastily began swiping at my rather creased chinos and glanced in dismay at my grubby shoes. It was too late now. I approached the oak desk, running my fingers across the intricate carving which bordered its rim. A neatly composed woman sat behind the desk, her black hair strung up in a deftly styled bun. As she looked up at me attentively, her pretty crystal earrings dangled and I noticed her badge read 'Anita'.
“Hello. Can I ask which way it is to...” I referred momentarily to my crumpled sheet of paper. “Room 34D in the Hart Wing? I have a class there.” She promptly gave me directions with a reassuring smile and I thanked her, making my way through the set of double doors beyond the entrance. Reaching the room, I eased the heavy door open nervously to be greeted by, to my slight relief, a much more ordinary classroom decked out with high rough-edged desks scattered around the centre, with stools tucked underneath.
More people began to trickle in, some looking just as anxious as me; I was relieved I wasn’t the only one. As I sat there silently, trying not to look awkward, I subtly studied all the different fashion styles that each person wore – black lace up boots and a shabby dark skirt was worn by one petite girl; another had loose beige pantaloons matched with a cream blouse, contrasting with her deep red lipstick on a striking complexion. Each one was so unique and I began to feel quite ordinary in my trousers and jumper. Even the two guys who sauntered in at five minutes to eight donned trench coats and interesting graphic tees. The class mainly consisted of girls, who seemed to already be chatting away, getting acquainted with one another. One girl sat to the side, a stormy expression plastered on her pale face, headphones clamped on cropped bleached hair, chewing gum and practically shouting ‘don’t talk to me’. The two guys, who appeared to already know each other, took seats in front of the sinks across from me. I turned to see a slight girl carefully placing her bag beside her and she sat down so quietly that I may not have noticed her. Brown sleek hair spilled over her shoulders onto a long colourful floral top, which reached the middle of her thighs. She slung her cropped jacket carefully over the back of the chair and then pulled out a pad of paper and a pen. She seemed to be absent in her own world so I felt slightly rude when I said in my friendliest voice ‘Hello there’, and thrust out my hand towards her.
She turned to me almost in surprise and flashed a shy rosy smile. Her eyes were hazel, with freckles scattered down her cheeks like cheerful tears, and she raised her hand to shake mine tentatively. Her skin was cold and smooth and her hand so fragile, I felt as though I would crush it. She raised her left hand to her throat and tapped it lightly, shaking her head. It was my turn to be surprised and I hoped it didn’t show too much on my face. I felt an unfamiliar twinge of confusion as to how to proceed – should I carry on talking? But in a snap decision, I quickly reached down to my satchel, pulled out my scrappy notepad and pencil and jotted down, “Hey, my name is Michael. How are you?” Pushing the pad towards her, I was pleased to see she took it with enthusiasm and began instantly scribbling down with astonishing speed, almost a mini essay. Before she had finished writing, I noticed an older woman making her way to the front of the room. She leant her back on the edge of the front desk and looked out towards us, the excited introductory babble dying down as she began to speak.
“Right, well, I’m just going to begin. So, welcome, to the first of nine sessions for the course Painting, Drawing and Mixed Media, Intermediate level. My name is Sarah Torndale and I’ll be your teacher for this course. I’m pleased to see so many have you have managed to make it to this first session. First, just to get to know one another, if everyone would like to briefly introduce themselves – give your name and just maybe a quick sentence about why you’re here. Don’t worry, I’m not asking for anything elaborate.” Her chuckle was emulated by the rest of us in a nervous suppressed kind of laugh.
I was instantly hit by a concern- what would the girl do when it got round to her turn for introductions? Would she think it rude if I gave her introduction for her? I had to cut myself short in my erratic musings and shook myself. What was I thinking – she lived with this kind of thing every day. Her notepad was shuffled in my direction, which read:
“Hey, my name is Kathryn. I’ve been mute for many years now. It’s best if we talk through notes. :) I decided to take this art course cos I’ve been out of practice drawing and painting and I really wanted to take it up again. How about you?”I liked the twirls she’d made on her ‘t’s and ‘y’s. I caught her smiling encouragingly at me. Then I looked round and everyone’s gaze was suddenly fixed on Kathryn, in expectation.