I can’t say it surprised me when she left. I would have thought we’d have a final conversation, an argument at least. Maybe sit on the floor of the living room and drain a last bottle of wine while she would cry and tell me again how much I’ve changed, how she doesn’t know me anymore. We’d let loose with all the regret and sadness and rage and then send it all up in flames with the sex we hadn’t had since God knows when. At the least, she’d leave a letter, the tired words of a woman lamenting what should have been.
But I came home to a yellow post-it stuck to the refrigerator: Goodbye, ~L. And that was that.
I don’t know where I was going, but I drove and drove and banged my fist on the dash and drove some more. Morning found me in a diner, seated in a faded red booth next to the window. At least it was quiet. Only me, a couple farmers and a waitress named Iva. The eggs and bacon grew cold on the greasy plate while I watched the rain splash off the asphalt and stirred two Splendas into my coffee. I stared and stirred and stirred and stirred, a clinking cadence of spoon and cup.
An hour later, I drove north on a familiar stretch of road. I didn’t know if I’d still find Prof Bogert at the university, years since we’d talked. I hadn’t planned this route, but of course this was where I was going. This drive was the most predictable part of the whole drama. When you’re lost, you’re desperate to be found. And Thaddeus Bogert was the one man who had never stopped looking for me.
After graduation, Thaddeus and I shared a farewell tea on his porch. “Good days are ahead,” he said. “Just remember – doing good isn’t the same as living good..”
“Alright, Thad. But you can stop scratching around for something. This is Yale. I made it!”
“You are on your way, well on your way, and I am crazy proud of you.” Thaddeus smiled at me until he knew I’d noticed. Then he tamped his pipe with a rhythm, a cue he was thinking more.
“Prof, you worried about me?”
“Worried?” he said, looking up and chuckling. “No, not worried. Hopeful.”
“You obviously have something else to say.” That’s one of the things I admired about Thaddeus. He never offered words uninvited.
“I’m still wondering what kind of man you want to be. And I’m curious if you are still wondering what kind of man you want to be.”
The conversation ended awkwardly. I loved that old man, but he didn’t always know the way the world actually works, how to get things done and make things happen. I was aiming for answers, but he was only getting started with the questions.
The wipers sloshed the rain back and forth. I could use one of those steaming cups of tea. I think I’d finally run headlong into the questions.
If you’d like, you can read an introduction to Thaddeus.