In my professional life, some nearly-lifetime ago, each day swarmed with people, with energy, with playfulness and the unexpected pleasures and needs of living with college students. Their age meant most of them were purely beautiful creatures, their souls transparent, their faces alight with possibility. My life on college campuses required planning ahead—a five minute walk across campus could only be executed in five minutes if I saw no one, spoke no greetings, hugged no students, avoided the temptation to dive for falling pine cones crashing through the limbs. The tall pines were prone to hoarfrost in winter, fog in summer, startling beauty that slowed my hurried feet. Always and everywhere there were students with affection aimed in my direction, hearts open.
My job was to make room for them, as many of them as possible, to connect with the shy ones prone to hide their hearts away, to tempt with dorm programs and cookies until they opened dorm room doors and came out to socialize. I exhausted myself with the hostilities of a few, true, but mostly I exhausted myself with love of them all. I thought that was the way life was supposed to be—all while craving a little quiet.
I’ve not experienced anything like that social peak again. Instead of a little quiet I find myself nearly alone, most of my working days.
When my neighbor locked himself out and needed to phone his roommate, I found myself wishing for twenty neighbors to do the same—not to need me, but to sit in my life for ten minutes, to talk about coffee. He needed mental quiet, it seems, and to look out the window at my diamond-view. I needed to type to give him space to be alone—surprising how good an arrangement it was, merely the solace of existing on the same planet. Remarkable how pathetic I am, or at least how tuned to “company,” as we used to say when guests were expected.
Ramone’s roommate arrived and honked, and I waved goodbye as he walked out the door. We agreed on a cup of coffee, some other time when he needs to visit my window view, when I’m not working on homework. Then I went right back to work and forgot the whole incident. Here it is, under “drop by” on my laptop, hmmmmm, right next to the essay I was working on...