Thursday, September 13, 2007

steaming Viennese

Today I went to coffee at the university library with an old English professor of mine, a retired 18th century expert, who now sits as a scholar in the stacks, in an office off the Reading Room. We kept running into each other throughout the ten years since I wrote that paper on Evelina, which captured his high mark, and introduced me to intense textual analysis. (I still prize that paper; he was a hard grader. I felt like I was Evelina, as English majors usually have one character that they merge themselves into out of familiarity. She is a character that my proper mother would have approved of.)

Anyway, a friend told me one time that perhaps he had a message for me, since he was one of those people who came out of the folds of the general populace to be in front of me in various places. I agreed that maybe I should go to coffee with him when he asked again (which he did once before). When I ran into him at the library, he greeted me with such glee (and ferocious hug) that I agreed to go downstairs to share a cup together.

So this morning, there we sat, over steaming Viennese coffee, realizing that we didn't have much to say to one another. It was a bit awkward; I tried to ask lots of questions. He has grandkids, and daughters, and a mysterious white four-petal flower in his garden. He asked similar questions. We talked about my master's program, and he offered to help me frame my thesis when the time came. He has twinkling blue eyes and a ready smile.

Then, awkwardness, then time to go. I always wonder about encounters like this. I even prayed for God to show me a purpose as he went to get his lid. What makes two passing people in quick life, stop for a moment to peer, and then continue, passing by one another time and time again at various places, stopping, and then continuing on once more? It's the strangest sensation to me. I feel as if I want to figure it out, but it's larger than myself (or perhaps just arbitrary); it always leaves me with the sense of confusion, though. Perhaps my confusion connects to something that is beyond my present comprehension. But why? Strange.

I was happy to go into the reference section and bury myself in "Columbia Granger's Index to Poetry" and such impersonal books, which only appear when I seek them out.

We'll see. Perhaps the saga will continue, or the saga has been simply played out.

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