Okay, last time I had just gotten myself to a class...in Amherst...in 1979.
Specifically, it was Professor Robert Keefe’s “Victorian Literature.” Honestly, I didn’t have high hopes for it. I didn’t know much about Victorian literature, but what I knew, I didn’t much like. But, to my surprise, I would later have to admit to really enjoying myself there. Robert Keefe was a terrific teacher, and had an almost magical ability to bring Tennyson, the Brownings, the Brontës, and the rest of them to life.
And Keefe himself was interesting. When I knew him, he was a tall man with a trim beard whose hobbies included writing horror fiction, and who had done seriously important books on Charlotte Bronte and Walter Pater. Much, much later he would also do a book about his own adventures during the Cold War. He worked, it seems, with the pilots and crews of “surveillance aircraft,” some of which were shot down, and for security reasons, the fates of those individuals were not divulged to their survivors--at least not until Keefe revealed the truth to the world. (For more on that, see “The Price of Vigilance: Attacks on American Surveillance Flights (Ballantine Books, June 12, 2001).”)
But, all that I’d learn later. Right then, I just wanted to find out what sort of class I’d gotten myself into, and what sort of experience it might entail. I was a little early, and there were only two or three other people in the chairs. We all smiled and nodded at each other in the way you have when you’re in a new place and don’t quite know what to expect.
As per norm, the photos nothing to do with the story. I just like them. The first is of Martha in the town of Wimberley, Texas, which I hope to write about at some point.
Then, I heard voices and realized that a larger crowd was headed our way down the hall. People began to enter. I recognized two or three and we greeted each other silently. Then there was a batch of folks that I suspected were MA or Ph.D. students. And then...following them...and just ahead of the professor...
Was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen in my life.
She was...gorgeous. She was very dark. She looked quite foreign and I wondered if she was Greek or French, or even Native American. She was wearing a sweater, which made sense in the New England Autumn.
She came in and selected a chair across the room from me. She was directly in my view...for which I thanked God, sincerely. She busied herself with notebooks and pens. She looked up. She looked at me. I smiled.
She looked away. She looked away very quickly. She looked away with The Look you have when you have absolutely no intention of ever looking back. And you want the person you’re Not Looking At to know that. And make no mistakes about it.
I’d seen that look before. I’d seen it often. I knew it well. I had a lot of experience with it. I knew what it meant. I considered myself sort of an expert in it.
Ah well...not the first time. Wouldn’t be the last. Heaven knows.
Just then the professor entered the room, and I soon busied myself with notes about the syllabus and the readings...
But, you know, curious thing...
I was seated, after all, directly across from the beautiful woman. And that meant that neither of us could look up without, you know, seeing each other. And, while I figured she was way out of my league, well, now and then...you know...I’d have to glance at her. Purely by accident. A chance of fate. Of course.
And...while I had no intention of, well, making her nervous, or intruding...er, ah...
Now and then...I’d catch her...looking at me.
And sometimes...on occasion...she had the slightest...the slightest!...hint of a smile.
More to come.
Martha looking thoughtful and exotic while drying off at a local park after a dip in the splash pad with the grand kids.