Saturday, February 28, 2015

Call Him Mr. Mandolin. Or Rick. Or Something...

I had several good professors during my years at the Lyceum but the one I think of most often was my mandolin-playing humanities instructor, who claimed to be an ex-Marine. He was forty-two, a widower with no kids and in the midst of a serious hunt for a spouse. He said he was from Zamboanga. His chosen drink was Tequila.

   The professor was friendly, meticulous, and above all, he made the subject more interesting. He was extremely clear on all explanations and always gave his students the chance for advanced creative and scholarly work and recognition.

   On the afternoon of September 7, 1998, a shot rang out somewhere around the university. I was sitting in the library pretending to be reading Homage to Catalonia when I heard the gunfire. Chaos. Panic. Confusion. The shooter was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the cafeteria. It was the professor.

   I met Mr. Pineda about 16 years ago while I was attending summer school. You know, there’s no better place to be in the summertime than on a college campus. Girls in shorts, students in sundresses, afterschool get-togethers, and late-night parties.

   Female students adored him. He was handsome and charismatic. And there was something rugged and raw about him that attracted naive college girls. He was seen hanging out with some pretty coeds but no one had ever caught his attention the way Crystal did.

   Crystal was hot. I mean totally knockout gorgeous. She had long black hair, big round eyes, nice legs, curvy hips, and beestung lips. Her breasts were proportional to her overall figure. Her scent was intoxicating. She was also my lab partner in chemistry, and during one of our experiments I noticed the sadness in her eyes. "Look, I’m not one to meddle, but is there something I can do?" I told her. "No," she whispered. "But thank you."

   The rumors sparked when the professor and Crystal were seen being sweet with each other, talking, dancing, and even hugging at a bar not far away from campus. Aside from their PDAs, I had no idea what was going on between the two of them. I can only speculate as to why Mr. Pineda ended up doing it. After the professor’s suicide, Crystal dropped out and disappeared to avoid humiliation. 

   My Alma Mater was a quiet place, filled with ordinary students with ordinary dreams and aspirations. Rallies were uncommon; fratwars, rare. There were occasional violence but none was as brutal as the professor's. Many years have passed but he still crosses my mind from time to time.

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