“Professor Choi,” she said.
That name took me through a wormhole back to freshman year in college. The feelings of disgust and fear crept through my body as my 18-year-old self saw this college professor’s erection through his khaki pants.
I wasn’t in Choi’s class. That was the first and last time I met him. Mermaid had received so many corrections on his paper from this man that he rewrote the whole thing and turn it in during office hours.
Mermaid knocked on his Choi’s office and he beckoned us to enter. I politely said, “It’s okay. I’ll just stand in the hall.”
“No, no. You come inside too,” Choi said.
So, I entered with Mermaid and stood next to the door while Mermaid sat in the chair opposite Choi. After a short conversation with Mermaid scolding him about his paper, Choi turned to me and asked for my name and how I knew Mermaid. “I’m his girlfriend.”
After our brief exchange of words, Choi pushed his chair back and I noticed a bulge in his pants. I felt everything drain from my body. Without even touching me, he made me feel disgusted and scared. I felt violated. I quickly averted my eyes and was relieved when we left soon after.
Could it be that Choi just happened to have a woody when we entered his office? Did he purposely push his chair back so that I could see? I won’t say that what happened was intentional because I do not know. On the other hand, it could’ve been intentional, and if it was, I would classify it as inappropriate and harassment.
I never told anyone about this encounter and forgot about it some months later. Then it all came back yesterday when a colleague expressed her high dislike of Professor Choi, still teaching at the same college Mermaid and I attended. This colleague was the first person I’ve told. And now you.
The word “trigger“is a psychological term, use to define a stimuli that elicits a flashback of trauma in an individual. Things that trigger vary with people. Sight, sound, taste, touch, smell. However, to use it loosely simply means that something brought around a negative feeling or unhealthy behavior. Emotional triggers.
I’ve met professors, attended classes, and forgot names and faces. This includes many of the professors I liked. And yet, this man’s name—this man whom I’ve met only once for 10 minutes—would be able to bring back a rush of feeling disgusted and scared after 13 long years. I would not classify this experience as trauma, but it it seems it must’ve affected me in some way for me to feel as if I was standing in his room that moment.