The professor who teaches metalworking and shop classes gets called the Old Professor, but he isn’t old. At least, he doesn’t look it. He gets called the Old Professor, but he calls himself Sequoia.
Sequoia is eight feet tall, with metal in his eyes and kindness in his hands and silence in his mouth. You’re a psych major without a drop of poetry in your soul but when you first heard his voice, something in your lizard-brain said “this is what a forest’s voice would sound like.”
There are indeed forests, inked into his dark brown arms - woods going up into misty mountains, ancient trees in forests primordial growing amongst ferns the size of houses, twiggy saplings rearing their heads above the fertile ash of pyroclasric flow.
There’s probably iron in the ink, an art major tells you. “Lots,” says another, subdued. “Red caps chased me to the shop building. He caught the leader by the arm and…I saw it burn.”
You don’t believe that, but it makes you shiver anyway. Even if his touch did burn Them, wouldn’t it be from the iron in his skin thanks to his line of work?
Among his red-black locs are iron rings made from old nails, silver rings so pure one of Them grumbled to you that they sing, and beads of green sea-glass and jade and one glittery chartreuse pony bead that Jimothy gave him in exchange for a whole sack of red ones. He’s free with the rings (usually to students) and the glass (usually to Them) but he treasures that damn ugly little plastic bead and you’ve seen him press it lightly to his mouth when he’s thinking.
Sequoia must have been a false name when he chose it. You don’t think anyone on campus would claim it is now. Really, you find that the most telling thing of all - though what it tells, you’re never sure.
But there is kindness in his hands, and welcome in his silence, and when you’ve all but fallen through his doorway with the tang of blood in the back of your throat from running and the sound of hooves behind you (not running; it would have been less frightening if whatever was back there had bothered to RUN) there is tea in his hands too, and you feel the hollow in your chest begin to heal as you pour out your story and your terror to a watchful face full of quiet interest and altogether free of judgement.