For the past twenty minutes, I have been pacing in front of room 314, on the third floor of the Diffenbaugh building on Florida State campus. My first class of my last semester begins in eleven minutes, but I’m not sure that I can walk through the heavy metal door of the classroom.
What’s keeping me from entering room 314 and taking my typical spot three seats up from the last row, all the way to the left? – This is the classroom where Vince Binder began teaching me the fundamentals of Public Speaking, before his brutal disappearance. My breath caught in my throat the moment I realized where I was, and my palms have begun to tremble with sweat.
The last time I entered 314, my classmates and I had just received confirmation of our teacher’s murder. Our closely knit class had prepared kind words, sobbed in each other’s arms and shared a bubbly toast in his name. Then, I fled the scene and abandoned the memories contained within room 314.
Standing in front of this door brings waves of recollection. The time I did a spoken word interpretation of Barenaked Ladies’ “One Week,” and how Vince always wore thrift store shirts that proclaimed advertisements for car washes and little league teams. He always told us, “it’s your world.”
The first day he didn’t show up to class, we joked about hangovers and playing hookie. The second week, we wrote down attendance and someone jokingly scribbled “hope you’re not dead” on the paper. What irony. He cried when he realized his foolish humor was the truth. I remember the candlelit vigils, being too emotional to attend the memorials, pouring myself over every news article in hopes of an update.
I considered running back to my car and dropping the class in favor of a different section, in a different room – but I realized that Vince would be mocking me right now, making cat calls about me being a big wimp. He would shake his fat head in disbelief that I’d be such a coward, and he might even get offended that I’m trying to erase the thoughts of our class.
So, I’ve decided to walk inside. This one’s for you, Vince.