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Twilight University: You'll Need More Than a Ph.D. to Survive...

11/26/2012 02:22 pm ET | Updated Jan 26, 2013

Twilight University said they needed new blood, so our heroine took the job.

When I emerged from my 1953 Chevrolet pickup truck, my mass of long tangled hair was windblown. I was disheveled, like some kind of unearthly creature. Or maybe like Carole King. I ran my delicately thin fingers through it, but I knew I still looked like the reckless vagabond newcomer at Twilight University that I was.

Only recently had I been appointed the new Assistant Professor of Wuthering Heights Adaptation Studies. I had not bothered to style my hair because I was reckless and defiant and lacked appropriate hair products as well as self-awareness. My young-adult-sized apartment was only a short drive from the campus, too. I lived in the one of the outlying neighborhoods, the Paradise Lost district, near Twilight U.

It was drizzling. It drizzled a lot. It drizzled a lot on me because I was alone and no one could absorb the rest of the rain.

Twilight University was not a very welcoming place, although everybody agreed that it was very, very accessible. The streets were short. Their names were simple. The layout was familiar. It had a character similar to the characters of other places everywhere. God knows it was popular as hell.

Twilight University had been around a long time. A lot of the faculty had been there for years and years, but despite the fact that many didn't look it, several were of them were quite long in the tooth.

I do a good job of blocking painful, unnecessary things from my memory. It's tough when using my credit card for online purchases. But I do remember my name.

My name is Aquavit, but most people call me "Aqua." That's because I hit those who use my full name. I punch them right in the forehead. They don't do it twice.

At Twilight University, I was a young Ph.D. from the big city, the curiosity, the freak.
More than 14,978 people had applied for my job. The job list was tough that year. That made me uncomfortable. It made me flush tomato red when I thought about it, which was often.

I didn't like calling attention to myself. I rarely do. I don't talk about myself because I'm not very interesting. I am not very intriguing. I am not amusing. I, I, I, I ... where was I?

Oh, right.

Twilight University said they needed some new blood. That's what made me decide to take the job there as opposed to accepting my other offer, which was at Wannabe U. I knew from reading Gaye Tuchman's book that Wannabe U's corporate environment would suck the life out of its new professors. With President Stephanie Meyer at the helm, in contrast, Twilight University would offer the possibility of extended life to those who joined. Their retirement plan was particularly promising. Plus their dining services were said to be remarkable.

What did I have to lose? I, I, I....

After all, I'd never fit in anywhere. I knew I should be tall, thin, with a chin-length bob, and a sparkle in my eye (and on my cheekbones, chest, elbows, and ears, for that matter, if it was sunny). Instead, I looked like volleyball. Not a volleyball player. A volleyball.

My wild hair, long pale neck and slender fingers did very little to alter that impression. Some have said I have almost translucent-looking, chalky pale skin. That was the lady at Clinique, though, and she was trying to sell me a lip-liner. Still others have told me that my pallid skin and luminous large eyes give me the look of a cat. Some said that cat was Garfield, but I dismissed those naysayers as part of a clique envious of my earnest, rogue, and hardworking ways.

I walked across the campus to the B. Stoker building moving silently through the fog that hung over T.U. like a veil. It reminded me of The Lifted Veil by George Eliot but I kept the thought to myself. There was no one else around, so it's not like I had a choice. Also, very few people admire "The Lifted Veil" once she gets into the whole regenerating-life-from-dead-flesh part. They prefer their Eliot milled and flossed.

My tangled hair frizzled in the drizzle around my pallidly chalky face and swept into my luminous eyes. I narrowly avoided walking into a lamppost. I was clumsy. Did I mention that? Luminous and clumsy as the balloon from The Prisoner. (Not the AMC one, the old one, with Patrick McGoohan.)

I was on my way to meet the formidable Dean Lyon. She was so formidable that she had no first name.

Dean Lyon was unnaturally statuesque and pale, like a Victorian figure from a wax museum, but dressed in Donna Karan. Or a Vera Wang Kohl's knock-off. As she turned to me, there was a brief, almost imperceptible glint in her slightly mismatched-colored eyes. Her shoes and socks didn't match too well, either.

"Try a scone," she offered dryly. "They're gluten-free." She brushed a crumb from her blouse and pawed restlessly at the folder containing the paperwork confirming my appointment to the department.

"Now let's talk about your approach to your new position. What, fundamentally, do you desire from your first year here at Twilight U.?"

She was speaking to me, but looking toward the hallway, where Mark Mutton, the adjunct Lamb expert, boyish but assertive employed but briefly, casually eyed the bulletin board.

"I'd like some clarification concerning my future at the university," I blurted out, clumsily and luminously, peeking up at her from beneath my unruly, yet engaging befogged bangs.

Did I mention that I tripped over words as often as I tripped over small objects, cracks in the pavement, and curbs? My own two surprisingly dainty and narrowly pale feet betray me, along with my tongue (i.e., the blurting habit). Some have said my blurting and clumsiness are endearingly vulnerable feminine traits that charm even my detractors by proving the humanity behind my ideal, albeit volleyball-shaped, self. Others disagree.

But enough about me. I, I, I,...I was feeling vulnerable. The hair on my arms, and those on my upper lip, stood on end with anxiety. I noticed that Dean Lyon's eyes devoured Mark Mutton as if he were a scone with a whole lot of gluten as she replied, "You want clarification? How can I put this so that you'll believe me, Professor Duck? You're not asleep, and you're not dead." She paused as Mutton moved away from the door and said, "What you are is untenured."

And that's when I started screaming ...