For F. Barthelme
So I'm her teacher, but what the hell, I like her a lot, have liked her a lot right from the moment she came to visit me during office hours to say she wanted to attend the class, besides that she's got to be over twenty, she's a full-grown woman and knows what she's doing.
I've always wondered about the hanky-panky between some of my colleagues and their students but, even though there have been a number of students whose looks (and more) I liked, this is the first time I've ever done anything about it. Or was any of it my doing?
We are here in my darkened apartment, still sweaty from the love we made, sitting on the couch naked, she smoking a cigarette, I next to her but far enough apart from her for my fingers just to rest lightly on her shoulder. After a moment she shrugs her shoulder to shrug my fingers off, flashes me a crooked smile from the corner of her mouth, says it's way too hot, but of course I can't help feeling rejected, and I remember this feeling of slight rejection that's been accompanying this affair right from the start, or am I wrong? I could be wrong.
She inhales deeply, seemingly in tune with some thought, but what thought it might be I don't know. Perhaps she's just waiting for the end of the semester, feeling that this thing she's gotten into with me is more than what she bargained for, threatening to extend beyond the limited range of time imposed by the academic year. Or am I imagining things?
Suddenly being here alone with her stifles me, I can hardly breathe, feel like my eyes must be bulging with claustrophobia, but it goes by, and of course I'm glad she hasn't noticed, but then, perhaps, she's just not sensitive, or doesn't give a damn.
However, that is not so, because she abruptly turns towards me and, giving me a shudderingly direct stare, asks what's wrong. And I, of course, have to act evasive, saying I don't know what's wrong, remembering that I am acting like a girl friend I once had who insisted that certain things had to be pried out of her, she couldn't just state them like that, on her own. Weird psychology.
Best to get back to something substantial, palpable, like, what are we going to do next? When? Right now. How about grabbing a bite to eat somewhere, yeah, I feel like having some coffee, too. To which she shrugs, all right.
While we're dressing, I decide to be impulsive and kiss her on the shoulder as she's pulling her panties on, but she just gives me a distracted look like she knows there's something else behind this sudden show of tenderness or whatever it's supposed to be.
I decide not to put up with it, stand in front of her, pull her close to me, the points of her breasts surprisingly cool on my chest (she still hasn't got her T-shirt on), and kiss her on her still smoky-smelling mouth.
But it didn't help, I lost her, and for some reason I think I lost here right then and there, if I ever had her (whatever that means).
She vanished a few days before the end of the semester, not saying good-bye, obviously not telling anybody else in town, at least not the people I called up to ask, or perhaps she told them not to tell me.
I still have some of her things, a yellow raincoat she left after getting here in the rain and then the weather turning better, a bikini from when she came over one day to sunbathe on my balcony, and the little toy rhino she bought me in some downtown store at the beginning.
And I? I gave her the grade I thought she deserved, nevertheless wondering whether it was in any way influenced by our what? relationship?
Copyright © by J. Beilharz, 1993 / 1999
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