Elliot hated, really really hated, teaching section.
He hated teaching anything, but especially intro calculus. It was fucking bullshit they were making him teach it in the first place. He was the best grad student the department had in years and this was a pure waste of his time. It made him furious every time he thought about it.
Elliot's first assigned section was Tuesday afternoon at one. He contemplated not showing up, just to see what the reaction would be, but he finally decided to go. At least Lise had agreed to take on most of the work for him. Thank god for those naive first years.
Elliot wheeled into the assigned room about fifteen minutes late. The other annoying aspect of the section was that it was on the third floor of the Potter building, one of the oldest on campus. Potter had an elevator, but it was so old and creaky, students rarely dared to venture a ride. But Elliot didn't have much of a choice.
The first classroom he passed on his way to section was where they were holding the complex analysis class for the first year grad students. He paused to glance in the room as he was passing by and he saw Lise sitting front row center. God, she was eager. She was scribbling in her notebook, glancing up every few seconds to look at the professor. Lise was very cute, no doubt about that, but there was something else about her that he liked. He wasn't sure what it was. Maybe it was the way she looked at him when they first met... like she worshiped him or something.
Elliot didn't realize he was staring until Lise looked up and their eyes met. His heart skipped a beat--he didn't want her to think he was some kind of weirdo for staring at her while she was in class. But to his surprise, she smiled brightly at him and waved her hand slightly to say hi. He just nodded at her and continued on his way to class.
Elliot was always a little surprised to realize he had been using his wheelchair all the time for close to six years now. By now, he was used to the reaction when he wheeled into a room full of eager-eyed freshman. He was used to it, but that didn't mean he hated it any less. He hated being stared at like that. It was the reason Elliot usually refused to give public talks on his dissertation topic.
"I'm Elliot Meyers," he told the room of gawking kids as he parked his chair behind the desk. "I'll be your T.A. this term."
Nobody said anything. A girl in the front row was chewing on her hair.
"This week's material is pretty simple," Elliot said without elaborating. "Does anyone have any specific questions on it?"
A boy in the second row hesitantly raised his hand. "I don't really understand the epsilon-delta definition of continuity..."
Elliot frowned. "You don't? You mean that's where you're stuck? Listen kid, if you can't get that, you may as well drop this class right now."
The boy stared at him. "I..."
"All right, all right," Elliot sighed. "Look, you have a function f. It's continuous at c if and only if for any epsilon greater than zero, there exists a delta greater than zero such that for all for all x in the domain where x is between c minus delta and c plus delta, f(x) will be between f(x) minus epsilon and f(x) plus epsilon. Get it now?"
"Um, could you write that down on the board?" the boy asked.
"Please," Elliot said, rolling his eyes. He looked around the room. "Does anybody have any real questions?"
Nobody raised their hand.
"Fantastic," Elliot said. "Class dismissed."
"Elliot, what the fuck?"
Bill Aronov, the professor of the calculus class Elliot was TA'ing, stormed into Elliot's office, his narrow face bright red. Bill had been a 4th year grad student when Elliot had just been starting out at the university and he had stayed on to take a professorship. Bill and Elliot had never exactly been friends, but Elliot had never seen Bill explode like this.
"What's wrong, Bill?" Elliot asked calmly. He noticed his left leg jumped slightly in the footrest and he rested his hand on his knee. Damn spasms.
"What's wrong?" Bill repeated. "What's wrong is that fifteen freshman came into my office and asked to switch out of your section. That's what's fucking wrong, Elliot."
Elliot shrugged. "Can I help it if I'm not a good teacher?"
"Oh, bullshit, Elliot!" Bill snapped. "I know what you did in that section. You think I'm a fucking moron?"
Elliot tried to gage how far Bill might be willing to take this. After all, Elliot didn't want to lose his stipend. But he really hated that goddamn calculus class.
As Elliot contemplated the matter, Bill bent down and looked Elliot straight in the eyes. "Just because you're crippled, that doesn't mean the department is going to keep putting up with your crap," Bill hissed.
Elliot stared at Bill, surprised he had the nerve to say something like that. Bill was only a mediocre mathematician and Elliot had been shocked when the university had offered him a position. There was no way in hell he'd ever get tenure here. Bill's fate was to wind up at some nothing university somewhere in Bumfuck USA, probably teaching intro calculus his whole life.
"Between you and me," Elliot said, "the department knows which one of us is going to make a mark in history. And let me give you a hint: it's not going to be you. So you can go suck my dick, Bill."
"That's it, Meyers," Bill growled. "You're in big trouble. I guarantee it."
Bill stormed out of the office with as much fury as he had on the way in. Elliot wasn't worried. As long as he showed up to section and graded all the papers (or Lise graded all the papers for him), they wouldn't touch him.
Lise spent an entire night grading Elliot's papers for him. She hadn't come by his office to pick them up, but he had left them in her mailbox. Lise considered what Brent had said about Elliot taking advantage of her, but she eventually decided it was worth it for a chance that he might take her under his wing. However small that chance might be.
Lise had intended to place the problem sets back in Elliot's mailbox, but she happened to see a document in his mailbox that jumped out at her. After she verified that nobody was watching her, she took the document out and read it--it was an invitation for Elliot to speak at the national convention of the American Mathematical Society.
Lise was so excited, her heart started to pound. It was a great honor to be given an opportunity to speak at the AMS convention, especially for a grad student. Of course, Elliot had already accomplished so much, it wasn't that big a surprise.
Forgetting her modesty, Lise ran down the hall to Elliot's office, holding the invitation in one hand and the calculus problem sets in the other. She skidded on her heels when she reached Elliot's office and saw him working behind his desk as usual. He didn't see her right away and she watched him for a second, holding onto the wheels of his chair as he lifted his butt clear off the seat, then let himself drop back down again.
He's really sexy, Lise thought, smiling to herself. She had a date with Brent last night, but Brent's good looks couldn't compare with Elliot's intelligence. Elliot was a genius. He was a god. And he was awfully cute, too. Too bad he was such a schmuck.
"Elliot," Lise said from the doorway. He looked up at her, surprise in his brown eyes. "I have some great news."
"You graded my papers?"
Lise smiled. "AMS wants you to speak at their national convention this year! Isn't that fantastic?"
Elliot accepted the paper from her. He glanced at it, then tossed it in the trash. "Yeah, whatever. I don't think so."
Lise quickly retrieved the paper from the trash. "What are you doing? This is a huge honor! How can you just throw this away?"
"I don't do the whole 'public speaking' thing," Elliot said. He shrugged. "I'm a mathematician, not a politician."
"I've never even heard of a grad student being asked to speak at the convention," Lise said. "They must think you're really... brilliant."
Elliot yanked the paper out of her fingers. "And I want them to continue to think so."
Lise frowned as she looked down at Elliot. She remembered that Peter had told her Elliot didn't like presenting his work. Lise suspected that the reason why was that he didn't want the mathematical community to be aware of his disability. If he presented to the AMS in his wheelchair, everyone would know that Elliot Meyers was a cripple. And in Elliot's eyes, that meant less respect. Lise wished she could convince him he was wrong, but she wasn't sure he was.
She held out the stack of problem sets to him. "Here, I graded these."
Elliot took them from her, but they slipped right out of his hand onto the floor. It was a mess. "Fuck!" Elliot cried.
"It's not a big deal," Lise said quickly as she bent down to retrieve the papers. She saw Elliot was staring at his hand, flexing his fingers into a fist slowly. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah, I..." Elliot stared at his hand for a second, perplexed. "I'm fine. I don't usually..."
"It's not a big deal," Lise repeated. On the floor, she found herself inches away from Elliot's sneakers. She wondered how he put them on in the morning. Did he need help? For a moment, she imagined herself sliding the sneakers off his feet...
Lise quickly scooped the last of the papers off the floor. She straightened up and placed the stack on Elliot's desk. "There," she said, rather breathlessly.
"Thanks," Elliot said.
He was gazing up at her and Lise felt her face flush slightly. God, he was sexy. What if she kissed him right now? How would he react? Did he even like women? He seemed to not like anyone. Typical math genius. Lise didn't think she could take being romantically rejected by Elliot Meyers.
"You can put the next set in my mailbox," Lise offered.
"Okay." Elliot seemed very distracted all of a sudden. He was looking down at his hands.
Lise backed out of the office, her mind racing.
To be continued...