She loved to watch him. She loved to get lost in the very few, but deep, aging lines in his forehead, imagining the struggles he has had in his life, and recognizing how beautifully they had shaped a boy into this man that stood before her. She loved hearing his voice, like a French opera to an American audience; they didn’t speak the language, but had hopes for the day when they might understand the meaning of those so elegantly grouped together words, in a tone that confirms its mastery of the language. A tone that humors you as you try to keep up, in a non-degrading way. His lips would quiver in a very secretive manner when he made a joke and none of us could process it fast enough to share the childish giggle with him.
When she got lost in her head, walking through all of the possible encounters with him she had yet the invitation to enjoy, he would often catch her off guard with a question she had no answer to. Besides what could she possibly have in her feeble conformed mind that would be of any entertainment to him? That’s what she feared, she knew none of her daydreaming would get her any closer to being able to have a one-on-one conversation with him. She knew that he was far to busy living his life to spare the time to impact hers in a more personal, direct way. She did not wish to be the woman he came home to, that she imagined would nag him for problems so miniscule. Nor did she want to take him away from that woman. She simply wanted to talk with him, get to know him, let him know her.
He was beautifully broken, yet so held together. He was ugly in the most attractive way. Physically he was not much to look at, his body held his thinning salt and pepper covered head about six feet and 2 inches off of the ground, in the middle there was a slight beer belly that suggested he didn’t do much on weekends. His bottom half was most always hugged by jeans, and his torso with a simple T-shirt. His face was normal, nothing misproportioned, nothing too stunning, except his eyes. His eyes were the most infatuating subject she had come across. The windows to his mind, and much like his mind, they were confident. They had the effect of a light to a moth, a light that once inside you shines so brightly it’s hard not to feel the warmth.
Every word that came so ghost-like out of his mouth was treated like the word of God by her. And that’s precisely what he was to her, a God of sorts, an answer her questioning the importance of knowledge. He was her very own faith, taking shape. And it was the shape of a fifty-three year old man standing at the front of a half-filled classroom pouring his genius into tiny heads. They looked in a metaphoric way, like rags already soaked in sticky fluid, trying to soak up the rest of a spill. They tried, and tried, week after week, to wring out all of the old knowledge so that they would have room for his much more significant teachings. And that’s where she is left every Tuesday afternoon, a ratty cloth soaking up his spill on the pale grey linoleum tiles of the college campus floor.
Note: This is a reworking of a piece that originally appeared on Backhand Stories in February