A revered professor. From our days of college pressures and living free, before the world you know tries its level best to crush you, and the resilient respond in kind, pushing stronger souls against all. The toughened fight this force that will not win because we’ve learned, from teachers like him, our strength along the way, brought up taught perhaps to bend a bit if need be, but to never brake, our spirits rising always against anyone or anything that tries to suppress us.
Retirement from the university. A reception will be held, and we decide to go because, I felt, we loved him so much.
Waiting. I’m there but Anna’s not, Anna to arrive, and while I’m roaming a room full unrecognizable people, the pupus tempt me, and the wine, and there’s potato salad next to little paper plates and plastic forks. The chunks of potato are large, but my eyes are bigger, and a small taste to check if it’s genuine mayonnaise confirms this is the real deal. So I scoop right in just before I see from the corner of my eye that he appears to push Anna, now arriving, to the floor.
Dead silence. From that side of the room quiet rolls like a dark wave, from the reception line to those already milling inside, drinking and dining on the precursors to this great feast.
Not four dots. As I rise from whatever it I was thinking about, they’re there, capturing my attention for a second, projected on the ceiling by an oddly made pendular lamp, a sculpture suspended by a chain, with four holes but only three dots of light, the fourth burnt out, four points of a compass, the west gone dark like a just set sun.
On the floor. Anna’s still on her back, no one offering a hand, all eyes wide and mouths still gaping, everyone stunned, by why, if he did this, he would do this, and is he the person they all thought he was.
Imagine. We have inklings some of us of some long ago perceived wrong, some incident between them killing something they had when he taught us, and she was the willing student, or unwilling, and there was the quiet idea buried in the back of my mind of rape, although she never said a thing and I could never bring myself to ask.
Kneeling. I ask Anna if she’s all right. Together we rise, she taking my arm and pulling me toward the door. And we are out of there, and I am sorry I shook his hand because Anna says she didn’t stumble, although she’s lost a shoe back there she never wants returned.
Reminder. I go over in my mind why it was we believed we should be here to honor his years of service. Although he could teach well, I wonder how we would ever think to come here in the first place except to celebrate his heading off into the sunset.
But that was. His name escapes me now, but he was there, at least to me, as someone I knew and then hated that I loved him so much. And I’ve lost touch with Anna, never asked her then, and cannot ask her now, wouldn’t even if I saw her again.