“Every sinner has a future”
It was just another classroom, with chairs arranged in neat rows and a massive white board hanging on the wall. Except for the tiny bits of paper on the floor, the room appeared fairly clean. Most of the chairs were occupied by the students, who were busily occupied in their world of texting and gossips. It was one such elective unit that the students found it too engaging to miss out. Number theory!!! Not, because the numerals were attractive, but it was the lecturer, Eleanor Everett. She made every session of hers a stand out one. She has a fetish for the numbers, excluding her age.
Despite in her late thirties, her flawless skin tone and agile nature made her more attractive among her colleagues. Eleanor walked into the class clutching a green folder containing her tutorial sheets. Her strides and the stiletto sound brought the chaotic class to an order. The students began to flip the pages, trying to make the most out of the textbook. Meanwhile, Susan with the pencil in her mouth made a cheeky smile at Ryan, who was sitting across her. Sensing her smile, he arched his brows and blew a kiss to her. She tried to shy away, but instead, she giggled something to her friend, Kanisha. Kanisha turned towards Susan’s direction and whispered, “Are you fucking serious? Don’t tell me you did that”
Ryan had a fair idea of what their gossip was about and he couldn’t reveal his embarrassment. With a half eaten apple at his desk, he is a typical student in any university. Being a mediocre student never dwindled his interest in his studies. But, he had to study hours to scrap a pass in his exams. He was always looked down because of his below average academic performance. Somehow he believed that he would make it big, just like the stalwarts he sees in magazines. He wanted to be independent, but things weren’t promising. Having been moved out of his folks place, he found it hard to meet his ends.
He juggled his spare time working in a petrol station and subway store. Most of his meals included the junk stuffs that were on specials at his workplace. Often, he fell sick because of the shit load of aerated drinks and French fries. He could feel the extra pound of flesh around his waist. With so much pressure on him, he found Susan to be his only solace. At times, her divine smile and her voice echoed in his heart. They shared a common interest for movies, which brought them together. She loved the little trivial things about him. The manner in which he spills his cereals, while trying to dig his breakfast into his mouth. Every time he does that she wipes it for him and plants a kiss on his cheek. She felt it was cute and loved his naïve behaviour.
Still, she argued with him for not spending enough time with her. With a slight shift in the air, they finally had their date night. On a cold night, with temperatures dropping down to single digits, Ryan fancied the idea of lovemaking on Susan’s garden. The gossip was all about their date night. Kanisha felt a bit of jealousy creeping inside her and it was quite explicit. Susan loved every bit of it and her eyes revealed it too, ‘you know what?” and she hushed something in Kanisha’s ears. There was a sudden burst of laughter that erupted in the class and everyone turned to look at them. Ryan gave her a look that meant “what are you doing, baby?”
At the same moment Eleanor wrote something on the board, which brought in another series of joy and laughter around. It read something like this, ‘Cicada – credit card’ and she began her lecture,
“Morning! I can sense some smiles amongst you. That’s good start for a Monday morning!” said Eleanor.
“Number theory doesn’t look great on any morning”, mumbled a bored looking gal, trying to play with her curly hair.
Eleanor tried to smile and said, “Let’s make the Monday morning interesting and exciting. The assessment of your last tutorials would be available tomorrow”.
That was the panic news that Ryan didn’t want to hear. He wasn’t happy with his performance in the last tutorial. Every number on the sheet stared at him for an answer. All he could manage was an attempt on each problem and he had little knowledge on proceeding further. The fear of failing the assessment made him feel weak.
“There’s no need to stress about your tutorial assessment. It’s done and dusted. Anyways, I’m quite shocked to see such a poor show from you people. Let’s hope it’s a wake up call for everyone and not the end of the world. Do remember that every sinner has a future” said Eleanor in an assertive tone.
“Wad of cash”
Eleanor began her lecture with an overhead projection illuminating the dark lecture hall. Ryan seemed to be unperturbed by the growing numbers on the presentation slides. Every slide had an array of numbers and symbols, followed by theorems and axioms to make his life more miserable. He glanced sideways to find Robert, sketching a caricature of Eleanor. Robert was so good at doing caricatures that everyone pestered him to do one. Ryan was intrigued on the fact that how the caricature of Eleanor would turn out.
At the same moment, Eleanor came back to her earlier note ‘Cicada – credit card’. “You must be all wondering as to how a Cicada and credit card are related. I’m not sure if you have heard about Cicada. Any ideas on that?” asked Eleanor.
“Credit card company” someone shouted.
“Its an insect…” said Robert, hardly looking away from his sketch book.
“That’s right. What’s so special about these little creatures? They have a unique lifecycle from the rest of their counterparts. They would emerge out from their eggs every 13 or 17 years depending on their species. In other words, they remain buried underground in larval stage for such long periods. But, when they come out, they do in millions” with a deliberate pause from Eleanor, like a magician to reveal the final part of his trick.
“Don’t you find something weird about this? Isn’t it interesting to find these insects so obsessed with 13 and 17? Why not any other numbers?” Eleanor beamed with an evil smile.
Most remained silent while a few fiddled in their gadgets to seek help from Google. Meanwhile, Robert came back again with an incisive reply, “13 and 17 are prime numbers. Their prime numbered life cycle is mainly to avoid their emergence with their predators’ life cycle”
“Well said, Robert. The insects didn’t pick these numbers randomly, but, after a series of trial and error methods, they chose them. Biologists call them as natural selection. Just imagine if their predator had a life cycle of 5 years, then the probability of cicada encountering their predator is reduced to one in every 65 (13x5) or 85 (17x5) years. That’s how mathematics is beautifully blended in nature. Such theories extend in our daily life, too. Take in case of our online transactions, the debit and credit card purchases; they involve prime number theory” explained Eleanor.
Ryan was so engrossed in the caricature of Eleanor that Robert was sketching. The caricature had a curvy nose like witches with bulging eyes of Eleanor. But the word ‘credit’ spelled back Ryan with a million thoughts that has been pondering him over the last couple of days. Having being pushed in an abyss of debt, Ryan was so grave about jobs that could save him. That’s when he came across a guy named Edwin, who offered him a career in modelling. Edwin’s words still echoed somewhere in his mind, “Trust me mate! You can make it big and walk out with a wad of cash”
Ryan still remembered the gruelling drill that he had to undergo at Edwin’s place, in order to seize the modelling opportunity.
Three days earlier, Ryan was at Edwin’s house for a trail photo-shoot. The room was aesthetically designed with French furniture matching the shimmering wooden floors. Every inch of the house smelled of luxury and richness. But, Ryan looked anxious with Edwin seated in a plush burgundy couch in the massive living room. “Let’s get this straight. There are three things that you need to know, before we start” began Edwin, who was small man with rimmed spectacles that embraced eyes of wisdom.
“The reason I chose you is quite simple. You have bloody good features, especially your face. We are after a skin tone like yours, though, it’s a bit pale we can work on that.
Before moving any further, any questions, mate?” asked Edwin with an authority.
“Naah! All good”
“Alrighty! Here comes the second, we’re a firm that trains potential people for modelling industry. This is a listed firm and we aren’t into dodgy business.
I know, what’s in your mind, this isn’t porn industry and no cheekiness. Is that clear?” asked Edwin, while he cleaned his glasses.
“Yea. What kind of modelling, are we doing something like, Tees? asked Ryan in a curious tone.
“That depends on the clients and our special team. But, it’s mostly apparels and men’ accessories. You will be amazed at our modelling spectrum.
Now, it’s my turn to ask a few questions for you. Honest answers are much appreciated”.
“Do you have a girlfriend? If so, how often do you have sexual intercourse with her?” asked Edwin.
“What the fuck! But, how does this fit in here?”
“I want an answer, not some bull shit,” said Edwin with his arms across his chest.
“Ridiculous! I’m in a relationship and I don’t keep a count on our nights”, murmured Ryan.
“That’s fine. You might find this weird, but I have seen several young chaps like you, switching their sexual orientation after getting into modelling. Not that I’m against that, but I giving you a heads-up” smiled Edwin.
Ryan gave a half-smile in a mocking manner, “What’s the third one?”
Edwin walked towards Ryan and patted his shoulder reassuringly. “You will be paid $50 for every photo that gets approved. Not to forget, we do a good 50-100 photos a month. Trust me mate! You can make it big and walk out with a wad of cash”
“That’s insane. That’s heaps. Hang on! Where does the photo go in? Retail outlets?” whistled Ryan.
“Don’t be over ambitious, kid! You aren’t modelling for Calvin Klein. Its mostly online stores like ASOS. So now, are you still keen to work with us?” enquired Edwin.
Ryan didn’t want to let this go. The colour of money and the smell of luxury was engulfing him. “Be wise enough to grab the right moments in your life, as you may not have a second chance” smiled Edwin and left his business card with a letter ‘E’ and its mirror image embedded on it. Pretty much looked like two ‘E’s’ glued together. The glossy finish and smooth texture of the card felt wonderful under his fingers.
With a million thoughts rattling his mind, Ryan felt hard to concentrate on his lecture. He had a week to pay for his bills, but his bank accounts have already dropped to negative figures. Now that the assessments are out, he felt nervous. He was watching Eleanor closely, wondering how lucky she was. To have a permanent job that pays a six-digit salary and 17% superannuation. Unlike him, where he needs enough shifts to meets his needs.
Meanwhile, Eleanor explained the complexity of prime numbers and their impact on security systems. Sensing Ryan’s stare, Eleanor stopped her lecture and remained silent. She was sure that Ryan wasn’t focussing on her lecture, during the last couple of minutes. Students felt the growing silence in the class, while, Ryan’s mind was totally engrossed in a different world.
“Ryan!” Eleanor’s voice echoed among the recess of the walls and deep in Ryan’s ears to yank him forward. Like a lost person in the woods, Ryan felt the apprehension with too many looks at him. His mind raced to look for a possible excuse to save his embarrassment, but eventually, it mumbled ‘Not again. I do every time in her classes’.
“Ryan, are you with us?” asked Eleanor sounding so polite.
Eleanor’s question pinged him with discomfort. His behaviour had all the markings of a guy who has woken up from hypnosis. Shifting his body didn’t make much of a difference.
“Yeah. Feeling a bit unwell. I should be fine”
Eleanor walked towards his seat, “Are you feeling nauseous? Take a break, if you want”
“Naah. Of late, things have been quite hard, so I’m a bit stressed. Sorry about that” Ryan apologized by looking at his notebook, while avoiding eye contact with Eleanor. The world turns out to be a hell, when the lecturer stands right beside us. The atmosphere in the class was pregnant with his edginess. The palms began to sweat.
“I can see that. Your recent grades didn’t look promising, so you better pull your socks up to pass this unit”
Her words brought pain and never ending grief in him. He looked at her, possibly looking for mercy, like a convict waiting for the guillotine blades to come down. Tears blurred his vision and throat felt dry.
“If you would like to talk, I’m available at my office this afternoon.” Eleanor patted him consolingly and walked back.
“I guess; we are pretty much done for the day. Thank you students, Good luck with your results”.
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