I was on my way to my first class for the semester feeling bad about my life. I left America to be an academic, and technically that’s what I am. But in reality, I am a 35-year-old professor with a meagre salary and no hope of tenure teaching subjects in English to kids who barely speak the language.

It’s not all bad. It’s true what they say about France. The food and wine are good, the people dress nice and most of them are cunts. But I’m a bit of a cunt myself. Plus, I like the independence of teaching and interacting with the students, especially the pretty young female ones.

Now, do not mistake me for a scoundrel. I have a code of ethics, and I adhere to it strictly. For a start, I do not fuck students. That would be unethical. I only fuck former students—nary a whisper of pipe-laying until I’ve sent the final marks to administration—and I only agree to ball them if they come to me basically asking for it.

Judge me if you will. But until you see their cute haircuts and inviting lips, their supple breasts and daring eyes, you simply cannot understand. I am a mouse caught in a trap. At least feed me the cheese.

It’s the only thing I look forward to nowadays. I’m at the age where I feel I’ve seen everything, or at least everybody, at least once. Some people are nice, many are afraid, most are selfish, and all lie constantly. Once you accept this, no one you meet can ever really surprise you. I don’t see people anymore—only archetypes—categories my mind has formulated for ease of comprehension.

Around me now are the familiar faces of the underground, the ones you don’t see anywhere else. A toddler with earrings and an attitude problem. An old gypsy with facial tattoos muttering some garbled voodoo nonsense. A man with no legs rolling through the crowd with a change cup on his creaky little imitation skateboard. They’re in their natural habitat here, these subterranean ogres, grovelling bondservants, no-hopers of every kind.

The train arrives at Odéon. I pull the lever, exit the carriage, walk up the stairs, and approach the university entrance. The security guard asks for my ID—seven years and these cunts still pretend not to recognise me—and I pass through the grand archway into the building.

I find the room on the lower ground floor. I enter the crowded theatre and walk towards the front, my air cool and superior.

I take my coat off, put down my bag, and pull out my notes.

“Welcome to the Law of Torts.”

I take in the tableau about me. It’s the same every time. There are the ones sighing and looking persecuted. The pairs of girls giggling at something on Facebook. The ones who avoid eye contact and whose names I will never learn. The know-it-alls who might actually make something of themselves one day.

Then there are the wide-eyed ones, the ones who look like the world has just made them an enticing proposition with which they are eager to come to terms. Those are the candidates, reader. The targets if you will. They aren’t the nerdy types. But they sit up the front and ask questions and act like whatever you’re talking about is the most important topic facing the world. They tend to be the best looking, too. Confidence, I guess it is. Everything in one neat little package.

There are exceptions, of course. Last year, I balled this chick from the Maghreb. She spoke no English and just looked at me the whole class with these big green eyes, brilliant portals to a boundless void. Dumb as an ox she was. But she had a shapely body, stupendous tits. She sent me an email after the course. I was surprised she knew how to use a computer. I couldn’t understand what she was saying, so I told her to meet me for a coffee, and the next thing I knew, my cock was in her ass (it’s a fallacy that Arab chicks don’t put out, but they generally only do anal).

So I start calling the roll. Pierre and Tomas are the cunts exchanging disdainful looks at the back. Tiphaine and Clara are the chattering cunts giggling on their iPads. Hélène and Céline are the chubby things in the middle trying to make themselves unnoticeable.

And then there are the misty-eyed ones in the first few rows. One of them is called Salim. Another is Clara. The final is Mélanie. Hold your horses, Salim. Mélanie and Clara are the ones.

***

Two weeks pass and I’m on my way to class again. I wanked over Mélanie last night, Clara the night before. Now I’m thinking about both of them together and my loins begin to stir. But then there’s this homosexual in the metro car talking loudly and I’m snapped back to reality.

What am I to do? I cannot have both. I should mention the third part of my code: never more than one per semester. This rule is more pragmatic than moral. There’s just too much scope for drama.

I walk into class and they’re all there, like normal. I take the roll and start talking about the topic for the week: trespass to the person. I tell them about false imprisonment. What about those cunts in the yellow vests holding up traffic: does that satisfy the test? Et cetera, et cetera. Then I ask them what they think the distinction between assault and battery is.

Clara puts up her hand. I can tell she’s prepared.

“Assault is when you intimidate someone. Battery is when you physically touch them.”

“Correct. And for battery,” I say, turning to the rest of the class, “can it be any type of physical contact?”

“It must be harmful,” Mélanie says.

“In what sense harmful?”

“In the sense of causing some harm.”

“What kind of harm? Physical?”

“…Yes…I suppose…physical harm.”

“So, to commit battery, you have to cause someone physical pain. Is that what you’re saying?”

As she’s thinking, I notice the sexy pencil skirt she’s wearing, and how her stylish collared shirt has several buttons unfastened so that the middle of her bra—black and lace—is visible.

“Pain…or damage of some kind…I guess.”

“Everyone agree with that?”

Silence.

“All right. Suppose someone on the metro touches you inappropriately. Is that battery or not?”

Their faces go contemplative. A hand shoots up.

“Salim.”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“Maybe it can be…like…offensive contact too.”

“Very good, Salim. Yes. The tort of battery,” I intone and they all begin to type, “is non-consensual contact that is either physically harmful or somehow offensive, invasion of privacy being the most common form.”

I wait for the sound of keystrokes—like a mini applause—to die down.

“Now, can you think of any kind of conduct that might be battery that does not fit this definition?”

One of the fat ones raises her hand.

“Maybe touching that is not intended to be offensive?”

“It’s an objective question. Think about the issue of consent.”

“Maybe, in some cases, consent is implied,” Mélanie says.

“Can you give an example?”

“Like in a crowd. In the metro or in a disco, you consent to some kind of touching.”

“It’s unavoidable. Good. Not what I had in mind, but that’s right. But coming back to my other point, let me put it this way: is there any kind of contact that is battery despite being consensual?”

Silence.

“Can you consent to any kind of touching?”

Still nothing.

“Can I consent to being punched in the face…or…shot?”

Shakes of the head.

“No, I can’t. In fact, the English courts have said you can’t consent to any kind of grievous bodily harm. That’s anything that could leave a mark on the body or pierce the skin and includes, for example, sadomasochistic sex practices. See the House of Lords Spanner case of 1993.”

I look at her again. Her legs are crossed, her eyes fixed on me. As I catch her gaze, she unfolds her legs and crosses them the other way, and for the briefest moment, I imagine myself diving head first into her pussy as my cock begins to flail like those tube men at car dealerships.

“Moving along to assault now.”

***

After class, Salim and Céline are asking me about their presentations while Mélanie waits patiently behind them.

“Just work it out,” I tell them. “You’ll be fine.”

They shuffle away, crestfallen.

“Hi, Mélanie.”

“Hello, sir,” she starts, and I can’t help noticing her bra again. “Regarding what you said about battery…is it really true…if someone wanted to be…let’s say…tied up…sorry to use a crude example…and the other person tied them up…and it was all totally consensual… that would really be battery?”

“If it were tight enough to leave a mark on the skin, then yes, technically that would be battery.”

“Even if the person really asked for it?”

“Consent is no defence.”

“That’s crazy, this law.”

“Well, in practice the victim would not report the other person. It would be wrong…sorry…it would be illegal…but no one would know…in a sense, it’s a phantom law.”

“Of course. I didn’t think of that. You can’t get in trouble if it stays a secret.”

“That’s right. Remember, torts are about obligations between individuals. The state is not involved. So to be liable, you have to be taken to court…by the…person.”

“I see…and in practice a person wouldn’t do such a thing…if she asked for it.”

“Precisely,” I say, approaching full boner and wondering if the reference to she were a simple grammatical error (the word “person” is feminine in French) or a deliberate provocation.“Interesting. Well, thanks, sir.”

“You’re welcome.”

“Good night.”

Arriving home, I sit on the edge of my bed, unfasten my pants, and wank furiously while picturing Mélanie inviting me to trespass to her person, to batter her good and proper for being such a frightful little slut of a student. What if she really wants it? I mean really, really wants it, I hear her saying and come within minutes into a handful of tissues.

***

Mélanie is a good student the whole semester, but she never approaches me after class with any spicy little questions again.

Then, in the last class, I notice she’s looking tired and a little sad, none of the hunger or excitement in her eyes that I remember from the beginning. As I look at her, I feel my mood coming down and decide to avoid eye contact with her for the rest of the lesson.

I give the lecture in a business-like fashion, remembering the pile of feedback forms I have to hand out at the end.

“Thanks for your participation, everyone,” I say in conclusion. “And best of luck in the exam.”

No one claps.

A few come up to me to ask me questions about the exam. I feel my pulse quicken a little as I notice Mélanie lingering at the back of the queue. I deal with the questions one by one. Finally, it’s her turn.

“Sir,” she says, looking grave. “I want to apply to a master’s in the US next year. I think a reference from you would really help. Would you mind doing it for me?”

“Certainly. Where are you thinking of applying to?”

She lists a bunch of schools. I’m not paying attention.

“Terrific. Well, I’d be happy to. Do you have my email?”

“Yes, I do. Thank you, sir. And thank you for the course.”

“All right, no problem. Speak soon.”

So she emails me the next day to formally request the reference. I write her a glowing letter and she replies with profuse gratitude.

Six weeks pass. It’s the first day of the fall semester and I’m on my way to class. I’d forgotten all about Mélanie. Then, as I’m trying to distract myself from the trogs in the metro car, I notice I’ve received an email from her. I open it and she explains she got into her preferred school, how grateful she is, and how she’s sure that my reference made all the difference. I decide to reply later inviting her for a glass of wine to celebrate.

I get out the metro and show my ID at the university entrance. I find the room, walk coolly towards the podium, and set down my things.

“Welcome to the Law of Trusts,” I say.

I begin to call the roll. I’m halfway through when I notice this chick in the second row biting her bottom lip. I’ve seen that face before. I know those eyes. I’ve seen it all before.