I apologize for not offering anything creative in almost a week, but it’s been a good week of supporting other authors, so not a loss at all!
HOWEVER, I do apologize to those many comments from you that I have not acknowledged. I will. I’m sorry. 💜
My intention is to make this a very short serial, but that’s dependent on the feedback. Yay or nay? (Tell me after you read it 😉 )
By the way, if you have an interesting dream and you’re a writer, try to make the best use of it!
My English Professor
The subtle scent of Giles’ aftershave alerts me to his presence in my office before I see him. His footsteps are quiet as always. No squeaky shoes for the sophisticated Dr. Giles Clarkson; they wouldn’t dare. He clears his throat softly.
“Dr. Rodgers, if you could please come to my office when you have the opportunity,” he says in that rich, languorous upper crust London accent.
I glance up but by then he’s already disappeared through the door. Immediately I feel unsettled. I studied with him for five years through one year of undergrad, two of master’s, two of my PhD, and then researched and taught alongside him for the six following years. I had heard all of his tones, his disappointment, his humor, his kindness, his approval, his: “You should move on. It’s incestuous. Staying at this university with me stagnates your research,” but not this one that sounded hesitant, wary. And, in kind, I am wary.
After a moment or two, I stand, wipe my suddenly clammy hands on my black trousers, glance at my reflection in the mirror I keep in my drawer. My eyes look too wide-eyed, too frightened, my skin too pale, but there’s little to be done.
I’m not yet tenured. That must be it. I haven’t received tenure. I nod. My record is beyond good. I’m easily employable. Maybe they’ve refused my appointment because of this academic incestuousness that Giles is always carrying on about.
I knock softly on his doorframe.
He’s sitting behind his desk that is easily one of the messiest that I have ever seen in all of my years at University. But he finds whatever he needs in its seemingly haphazard piles.
His warm eyes smile. He gestures toward one of the two chairs in front of his desk. I sit, confident that I know the topic and am determined not to be upset. I have options.
“I wanted you to be the first to know that I am leaving,” he says, his cognac gaze fastened on me.
Of any words I might have expected, those were not the ones, and I know that my carefully schooled expression wavers, maybe falls completely. How could I have been so oblivious to the fact that he was planning to leave when I am in almost daily contact with him?
It’s almost painful to smile, but I do. “Congratulations, I guess. Where are you going?”
“I’m returning home,” he says, his fingers playing the edge of his desk like piano keys.
“Cambridge?” I guess.
He shakes his head, a rueful smile on his lips. “Oxford has made me an offer I can’t refuse.”
I smile half-heartedly at the nod toward The Godfather, a film I made him watch one winter’s evening when we inadvertently became snowed in together. Nothing happened. Much to my disappointment. It never has.
“Well done,” I say. “But isn’t that cavorting with the academic enemy?”
His eyes sparkle. “I’d rather think of it as ending on a high note.”
And it is. For him. My hands fidget in my lap and I glance down at them, wishing I could say the perfect thing, while very aware of his gaze still resting on me. My cheeks burn.
“I have recommended that you take over my courses, head Shakespeare research and conduct the poetry seminar in the Spring,” he says.
This is the point at which I should gush my thanks, but all I can think is: you are leaving me behind.
I feel a dull throbbing ache in my throat from words I’m unable to say. “Thank you,” I say too primly.
He nods. Something in my expression causes him to frown. He parts his lips to speak but then closes them. His frown deepens.
Outside the clock tower chimes six-fifteen as it has so many times while we’ve shared coffee and stories after a long day. The sun is still high on this late May day. The sky through his window shows a brilliant, cloudless cerulean, so antithetical to the storm clouds in my mind, heart.
“I apologize if this has taken you by surprise. I really couldn’t mention it to anyone,” he says after a few moments have passed.
And there’s the rub. To him, the most intelligent man I have been around for all of these years, I am “anyone” while all this while he has been my sun.
to be continued?