The classroom

I had a very unsettling dream last night. It seemed oddly poetic, so I thought I’d share it.

I was a little child, around seven or eight years old. I walked into a classroom and took a seat in the front row, to the right of the two boys that were already there. I did this very mechanically, without looking around, as if I’d done the same thing a thousand times before. Though I can see how I wouldn’t want to look around even if this was my first time there, considering how horrible the room was.

The walls were an especially boring shade of gray, and there were no windows or decoration. There were around forty desk-chairs of the tiny, extremely uncomfortable kind that elementary schools always have, and they were all facing the wall that had the chalkboard (which was obviously black). The only way in or out was the door I had used to walk in. The floor was tiled, gray and black. The ceiling was much higher than it should have been for a room this size, and it was painted the same colour as the walls. The only thing on it were some scattered, not too bright fluorescent lights, which gave the room a synthetic and gloomy feel.

In front of the chalkboard there was a large, wooden desk with nothing on it, and the teacher was sitting behind it. She was tall, unrealistically thin, and very, very old; as wrinkled as my clothes when I take too long to fold them after a wash. Her dress was all black and very conservative, all you could see of her skin was her hands and head. Her gray hair was tied up in a ball behind her head. I couldn’t see her eyes, only a couple of folds I assumed were her eyes because there were glasses on top of them, and I’m pretty sure she had no eyebrows.

Here’s where things get a little weird. Next to the chalkboard there was a large, dark beige fridge (the only thing in the room that wasn’t some shade of gray). I somehow knew that the only thing in it was a single cup of yoghurt. In front of the desk, to the left, there was a pole about the same height as the teacher. It was curved so that it was thinner at the top, and on top of it was one white egg.

No one said a word until class started, and no other people arrived besides the two boys that were already there. The two boys were looking forward when I entered the class, but looked at me as soon as I sat down and never took their eyes off of me, even after the teacher began lecturing. The one to my left was about my height, the one to his left was just tall enough to look at me over the middle boy’s head. I knew that they were watching me at all times, but I did my best not to pay attention to them. I can’t really describe them very well, all I remember is they were dressed in shades of gray (just like me), and that there was something… un-human about their looks. Neither of them ever blinked.

I never payed attention to a word the teacher said, exactly like in real life elementary school. The three of us students were completely silent for most of the dream, exactly the opposite of real life elementary school. I was the only one to ever say anything, but I’ll get to that in a moment.

The whole thing was repeated multiple times, but some details were different each time. Every time I entered the classroom may have been a different morning, but I think it was the same morning over and over again, Groundhog Day style. I would walk into the classroom, take my seat, and the two boys would instantly and simultaneously start staring at me. There was a pause for what seemed like an eternity, but was probably around ten minutes before class started. Then the teacher would begin her lecture and write some gibberish on the board as she spoke, and I’d lose all concept of time waiting for class to finish. I don’t remember ever leaving the classroom, but I definitely remember entering it many times.

Some mornings, in the middle of lecture, I would interrupt the teacher and ask for the yoghurt in the fridge. She never said anything, she just walked towards the fridge very slowly, opened it, and walked towards me. She walked so slow I always regretted asking for the yoghurt, seeing her walk was torture. It also meant she got close to me, which was unpleasant to say the least. She had this kind of aura that made you feel like you’ve done something wrong every time she came close, like many teachers I’ve had before. After she left the yoghurt on my table I would eat it with the spoon that was somehow already on my hand. It was completely insipid. When I was done, she would come back to my desk, take the empty cup, and put it back in the fridge. The next morning, even if I didn’t ask for yoghurt, I always knew the cup was full again, which is what makes me think it was always the same morning.

On other days she would ask me to go up to the board and write some proof of something I definitely didn’t know about when I was eight, but I guess in this dream I was some kind of prodigy. I would do it in complete silence, just writing everything down, and the teacher didn’t say anything from the time I stood up until I sat back down. Every time this happened the stares from the two boys would get even more intense, and I could almost feel their eyes clawing me in the back as I faced the board.

The only proof I distinctly remember doing was the infinity of primes, and that was because of what happened afterwards. As I was walking back to my desk, I stopped, looked up at the egg and asked for the yoghurt. Instead of getting the yoghurt like she usually did, she walked to the pole, picked up the egg from the top, and cracked it open on my head. When I looked up to her, she said: “What, I can’t make references to jokes from future birthdays of yours?”. I had no idea of what she meant, so I just walked back to my seat. She resumed her lecture, and we all acted as if nothing had happened. The next morning the egg was back where it had always been.

Most of the time I saw the dream from my own perspective, but one morning I saw the whole thing from some other part of the classroom. From this third person point of view, the two other boys were looking straight towards the board. However, I was very sure that from little me’s perspective they were both still staring. I don’t know how much sense that makes, but it seemed to me that no matter who sat in the classroom, from their perspective the two boys were always staring at them, while in reality they were both looking forwards.

I lost track of how many times the whole thing repeated itself, it seemed like forever. I think the little me of the dream had been stuck in this loop his entire life. I’m glad I eventually woke up and ended his misery. I have never felt more uncomfortable after a dream before. It probably says something about me that my biggest nightmare is a very boring class on an endless loop.

Author: Mauricio Maluff Masi

My name is Mauricio Maluff Masi. I come from Asunción, Paraguay. I’m a Philosophy PhD Candidate at Northwestern University. If you wish to contact me, e-mail me at mmaluff (at) gmail (dot) com. You can also find me on twitter at @mmaluff.