Elegant Union (John Clark Smith) - Chapter 1

John Clark Smith
A Novel by John Clark Smith



On a cloudless warm day, several thousand people filled the university quad, many of them in bee costumes. Surrounding them were several paramedic vans and a line of police. In the center of the quad was a sculpture of a tall glass spiral jutting up twenty feet, and surrounding the sculpture was an octagonal wooden seating area.

There sat Titus Ketkar, a university professor, leaning forward with his eyes looking at the ground. Two police officers were guarding him on each side.

A few meters from the sculpture was a large platform.

Titus felt a tap on his shoulder. At first, he thought it was someone else, someone he would rather not see.

“Sir, sir,” a voice said urgently.

Titus sat up and saw Midia, one of his graduate students, dressed as a bee.

“Everyone’s ready,” she said.

Midia and Titus climbed the platform, though Midia had difficulty managing the steps in her bee costume. Her effort made her look like a woman whose due date had passed.

Aaron Lazan, a faculty member, was already on the podium in a blue suit and yellow tie. Midia and Titus joined Aaron and the three sat in chairs at the back of the platform.

Charlotte, another graduate student, sat on a fold-up chair on the other side of the platform from the podium. She was not in a bee costume but wore a green blouse and jeans.

Aaron went to the microphone.

“Ladies and Gentlemen,” he began, “thank you for coming. Your costumes look great. What a wonderful occasion for our university. It isn’t often that one of our own would receive The Medal for Distinguished Service.”

A minute of applause ensued.

“I have known Titus Ketkar from the time he first came to the university up to when he completed his doctorate and became a professor. The Medal is given for his work on three fronts: his activities and articles on the importance of bees, his philosophical studies on sentience, and finally, his critical contributions to the field of global thinking and climate change. Because of his work, we have a better and healthier world. Congratulations, Professor Ketkar.”

Aaron, Midia, and Charlotte started to clap. The audience responded with a bee buzzing sound while clapping.

Titus walked up to the podium and looked out upon the audience. Every patch of grass on the quad was covered. Looks of delight and big smiles were everywhere. Only one person, Gretchen, wearing a long flowery summer dress, stood erect in the middle of the crowd as if a spotlight were on her. She did not look happy. An expression of disappointment was most clear.

Titus never wanted an award. The consequences were unwelcome. But such were the problems of an existence he helped nurture, however illogical, repetitive, and random.

Midia came up and whispered:

“Here. You dropped your speech.”

She handed him a few pages.

What speech? As he placed the papers on the podium and began to peruse them, Charlotte walked over to Aaron, stood two feet in front of him, pointed a gun at his chest, and shot him. She made no attempt to move after shooting him but immediately placed the gun to her head and shot herself, collapsing to the platform.

These events happened like the hurried and narrative fragments of a dream. He had barely arrived at his place on the platform when Charlotte left her chair.

After a moment of confusion and shock, he slid to the ground, facing the bodies. Blood from Charlotte’s head wound splattered on to his suit coat. The expression on Aaron’s face, his eyes fully opened, was as if he was shocked and yet being tortured. Charlotte had fallen so that she was sitting with her back against Aaron’s legs with her head bent forward on her chest. Her face had a peaceful expression, her lips had the smallest sign of a smile.

Titus looked back out into the quad and saw expressions of anxiety and trauma, many in shock and some in tears. Only one person, Gretchen, was not grieving or crying. She nodded several times, shook her head, and walked away.

Titus knew the reason for her reaction. Her incessant words were ever in his head: “Why must you stray so long from reality?”

A memory filled his mind, a time when he sat on the octagonal wooden bench in a mostly empty university quad beside the abstract sculpture. Scents of a variety of flowers—especially the daffodils and roses in the tiny garden surrounding the sculpture—heightened by the slight breeze that always seemed to waft through this part of the campus, soothed him. The scents somewhat compensated for the sadness he felt that his role in existence was at its end. He had found much to admire in his role as well as the chance to take a sabbatical from his other work.

Gretchen’s presence meant that she had waited long enough. There would be no more excuses. The point had come for him to return to reality.

Titus was a “real entity,” a description Gretchen chose for lack of any term in any language. Real entities were, she liked to add, gods. There was no better word for them. They belonged to no existence, had no existence, and yet they could participate in and live in existence. Gretchen had seen his performance in existence as a professor and now wanted him to withdraw, even before she saw the killing of Aaron. He knew why.

Titus the real entity found existence fascinating. As he pondered it—many of its events happening at once in his mind—eight arms sprung from his torso, four on each side, plus his two normal arms. The arms created an arc around him amidst moving images, each demanding from him a hand, a word, an action, an approval, or some form of choice.

He wrapped the arms around his body and secured his briefcase handles with two arms, then closed his eyes.

The arm of his girlfriend Oriana was now around his shoulders. She wore black jeans and a black blouse with a black ribbon holding her hair together in the back of her head.

“The result of oppression,” she whispered, kneeling beside him, though her voice felt like the voice of Gretchen. “People who lack scruples and quality. Stubborn old men, bitter old ladies, and vulnerable, entitled, and selfish young people. An adolescent society. A society in chains. And who can see it? Who can smell it? Catastrophe can’t be sensed from the outside.”

Oriana guided him off the platform and past the group of reporters and police who wanted his reaction. He also walked through the gasping and screaming audience, some rushing forward to try to get a closer look at the bodies, falling over each other in the process because of their bulky bee costumes. The conversations among the people in the crowd grew louder as everyone awaited the news. When they saw Charlotte and Aaron being taken away, everyone settled down, stunned by what they had witnessed, but hesitant to leave the area.

Titus and Oriana took a taxi to his apartment. For the entire trip, his right leg was shaking. Titus thought about Aaron and his career, trying to reconcile his life with that final moment, shot by a student.

Once home Oriana poured him a glass of red wine and sat next to him on the black couch, her right arm around his shoulders.

The pages of the speech fell to the floor and laid in front of him. He picked one page up, stared at it for a moment, crumbled it, and threw it hard to the floor.

As a graduate student, he had often sought out Aaron for advice on his thesis. As a new professor, Aaron helped him become accepted in the department and introduced him to Sophia Hilliard, the President of the University, now a friend. Several times a year he shared dinner with Aaron’s wife and daughter. With his death, the memory of his existence as a professor lacked vitality and interest. To exist, Titus said to himself, you need others. Aaron was gone.

“Existence!” he said—though he did not mean to say the word out loud—his voice quivering and tears appearing in his eyes. “Finished. Years and years of Aaron teaching.”

He snapped his fingers.

“The end.”

“Not the end,” Oriana said under her breath.


“It’s an end, an end, not the end. An end that Aaron caused.”


“Aaron didn’t need to threaten Charlotte. He didn’t need to force her to choose between giving up university, losing her scholarship, and letting him unbutton her blouse, remove her bra, undo her skirt, and open his zipper. He could have said, ‘Stop!’ at many points and allowed her to leave.”

He grabbed his head with both hands and slowly moved it back and forth, the image of Aaron molesting Charlotte disturbing.

He looked at Oriana with a cold stare.

“Is that enough to take his life and hers?” he asked.

“What life?” Oriana asked, standing in front of the couch.

She poured a glass for herself and sat in a chair beside the couch.

“A living death,” she said. “We all hoped our plan would release her from such despair. But she had her own plan.”

Oriana gave him another view of Aaron and a glimpse into Charlotte’s life. He now knew Aaron the predator, but the life and problems of Charlotte the victim, his student, were unknown to him.

“And she wasn’t the only one molested,” Oriana added. “But they’re all afraid what would happen if others, professors like you, learned what was going on.”

Oriana went to the cupboard to see what there was to eat.

“How did Charlotte get to the platform anyway?” he asked. “Weren’t the police screening everyone?”

She looked over at him and raised her eyebrows.

“You?” he said in astonishment. “You planned this?”

“Not the gun,” she said. “I have no idea how she got the gun. But yes. We planned it. That’s why she was up there.”


She returned to the couch and sat beside him.

“I told all this to your brother. You know what he said? ‘Not my work, Wake up the sleepwalker.’”

The views of his brother Fischer were not his concern. He sipped his wine and picked up the other pages of the outline from the floor. Nor would he ask her why she talked to Fischer.

But Oriana wanted to know.

“Is Fischer right?” she asked. “Is it your work?”

“In his eyes, yes.”

“How?” she said anxiously. “How is it your work? What could you have done?”

He could do many things.

“It’s what I don’t do. I knew she had a problem with Aaron.”

“And you did nothing!” she said, standing up abruptly.

He looked at her angry expression and realized that perhaps Gretchen was right; perhaps it was time for existence to end.

“I was planning on going this week to Human Resources and the Dean to alert them.”

That was not the real action, he knew, but he would not talk about the real action.

She walked to the door, upset by his apparent role in Charlotte’s death.

“I keep thinking about a poem Charlotte wrote,” Oriana said. “Maybe you should have read it. The last line was: ‘“Death bleeds a black fluid filled with secrets, truth and hurt.’”

“The truth endures far longer,” he said, “and is more hurtful than death.”

“Are you part of it somehow?” she asked. “Let’s be honest. Events would have happened differently if there was no award ceremony or if you had helped Charlotte sooner. Fischer must be right. You were in some way responsible.”

She opened the door and turned back.

“Your brother’s here,” she said.

Fischer remained close to the door, as if hesitant to enter fully without permission. Fischer’s short slick hair, dark suit, light blue shirt, red tie, and pointed shoes were his idea of a 1930’s mobster.

“What are you doing here?” Titus asked. “I’m about to go to bed.”

“Oriana said you’re exposed,” Fischer said. “Can’t have my brother exposed, whatever Oriana thinks that means. I will stay until Gretchen comes.”


“That’s not how she put it,” Fischer said. “She said you could’ve been killed.”

Fischer sat at a chair at the kitchen table.

“Sometimes I wonder about Oriana. What does she really know? Of course, if you were shot, that would’ve been a problem, though not how Oriana thinks. Existence again. I know you didn’t arrange the deaths of Aaron and Charlotte, but I know you ignored your work on behalf of existence. What a cucumber!”

“What a pickle!” Titus corrected.

“Whatever. Gretchen won’t be happy. I’m sure she’s on her way. Maybe this time she’ll ungod you. I doubt she’ll think you’ve been serving the universe.”

“There’s no need for you to stay,” Titus said.

Fischer returned to the door and leaned up against it.

“What happened today on the quad, that was your doing. Those people were in your sabbatical circle, and I doubt you even knew what was going on, and you certainly didn’t know how to undo it. So, yeah, you go to bed. I’ll talk to Gretchen. It’s not that big a deal if she ungods you.”

“I don’t need you to talk to her,” Titus said.

“After this mess on the quad and all this time away from work, you’re going to handle Gretchen?”

An even better choice, he thought, was to ignore Gretchen and Fischer. After the death of Charlotte and Aaron, Titus did not want to talk to anyone. Seeing Gretchen in the center of the crowd already had its effect.  His existence was at an end.

Fischer left and Titus went to bed.


At two in the morning, voices in the living room woke Titus. He opened the bedroom door a crack and listened to the conversation of Gretchen and Fischer.

Gretchen on this visit was a young woman in her mid-twenties with long hair, two large diamond studs in her ear, without make-up, and glowing sapphire shoes. She wore a dark blue maxi dress. On her wrists, fingers, and neck were jewels. Her forehead had a diamond shaped green jewel.

“It’s time,” she said in a decisive voice.

“Why?” Fischer said calmly. “He ignores you.”

“No one ignores me.”

“Just ungod him.”

“Worry about your own work, Fischer.”

“If you draw him back,” Fischer said, walking directly up to her, “won’t there be serious consequences? After all, he doesn’t care about the union, and I’ve resolved most of his events.”

“Have you now?” Gretchen said. “You ‘resolved’ them? Don’t play with me. You resolved them in your way, not in his way.”

She was looking at the books on the bookshelf.

“Look at these books,” she said. “Yi Jing, Zhuang Zi, Dao De Jing, Lieh Zi. He’s enjoying existence.”

“Whereas I have no shelf,” Fischer said, “and no books. I have no time to exist. I must work. Titus sabotages the work of others.”

“What others?”

“Exactly,” he said. “That’s my point. By doing nothing he sabotages the work of others. Does he even know how to do his work anymore? He’s had so many failures.”

Gretchen’s turned around quickly with an intense face and spoke very slowly.

“You mustn’t assume because you believe in nothing that there’s nothing to believe in.”

“I may believe in nothing, but I’m a desperate optimist. I work to makes things better.”

Gretchen began examining the glasses in the cupboard. She lifted each glass to the light as if she was inspecting it for grime or finger marks, then she placed it under the water and cleaned it with a cloth. She continued to do this while she talked to Fischer.

“You work to keep things clean and the same,” Gretchen said.

“It’s better than choosing existence,” Fischer said. “Is that real?”

“Why not? Existence is real. It will serve him well.”

“Fine,” Fischer said, “but you should ungod him. A god doesn’t make such mistakes.”

“What mistakes?” she said. “Existing? Is it a mistake when rocks try to stop water or when water goes around rocks? You’re afraid he’ll cause trouble for you? Or perhaps that he might succeed more?”

“I’m not afraid of anything he’s done or will do,” Fischer said. “But maybe you should be.”

Titus saw Gretchen turn her face away from Fischer and hold in her laughter.

“And why is that?” she asked.

Fischer nonchalantly began to fidget at the kitchen table with a prism he always carried with him. Light to Fischer was a mystery. The invisible had so many waves and dimensions.

“Think,” Fischer said. “Shouldn’t he come on his own, through his own will? Look what happened at the university today. Wang was there. And probably phantoms. Why so many balls in the air? Wang is unpredictable. The phantoms will--”

“--calm down. Don’t worry about Wang or the phantoms. You need them. There’s so much work to be done--”

She interrupted herself, clearly not wanting to share anything more.

“--all right,” she said. “Forget about what happened at the quad. Enough. I have to go.”

“But aren’t you going to talk to Titus?”

“I didn’t come to talk to Titus.”

Fischer looked up from his prism with a face like a scolded schoolboy.

“Titus isn’t your work,” she said softly, sitting at the table beside him. “Concern yourself with your real work.”

“Pamoghenan and the three.’”

“No, your real work. Think.”

He froze and turned his face away from her eyes. She stood up and returned to the kitchen sink.

“The three?” she asked. “What’s that?”

“Logic, revolution, transcendence.”

“Logic, revolution, transcendence,” Gretchen repeated in a voice of frustration. “Honestly, Fischer, they’re just words. And you criticize Titus for delving into existence. You should know that every word is a mask. They’re ways to paint existence and create tyranny.”

She put up a glass to the light. “Who does the dishes?”

“I don’t know. What does it matter?”

Fischer went to the sink and looked at the water and the glasses, or rather he tried to look at the water and glasses. As soon as he looked, he immediately turned away from the glare. The sight was so intense he fell backwards upon the floor and returned to the table. From his momentary glance, he saw myriad entities within the light. Titus could see them from his bedroom door.

“Logic, revolution, transcendence,” Gretchen said. “The pretty sounds of mantras. Mantras are walls. You have three. If you find a fourth, it could box you in. You could learn from Titus. He has no mantras.”

Fischer bolted up from the table.

“He meditates all the time!”

“Not the same, not the same.”

“But I’m successful. Think of my achievements.”

“Yes, you’re right. You make an impression. But I must go.”

Gretchen threw the dishcloth down on the counter and left.

Titus watched Fischer shake his head and take a deep breath.

Fischer reclined on the couch with his feet up on the coffee table.

Titus opened the door.

“So! Her visit was about you, not me,” Titus said.

Fischer stood up.

“I must leave,” Fischer said.

“She said nothing about Aaron and Charlotte,” Titus said.

“You were Aaron’s prodigy,” Fischer said. “You supported him. Charlotte could have turned the gun on you. Aaron, by the way, knew Gretchen.”

“Gretchen has many connections,” Titus quickly corrected.

“Gretchen also has consequences,” Fischer said. “Your consequences are on their way.”

“Here’s another consequence,” Titus said, walking up to him at the door, their faces a few inches apart, with a fierce look. “Can’t you and Gretchen and the rest leave me alone?”

“No, much as I want to. I’ve tried to get her to ungod you, to free you from your real work. But she won’t listen. And why? Because, my brother, this is not your life. This—whatever this is—is not who you are. You don’t have an existence.”

Fischer slammed the door, clearly frustrated that his visit was not what he wanted.

Titus sat on the couch, thinking at first what he would make for breakfast but then his mind wandered off simultaneously into images of attacks on the Parthenon, the assassination of Jaurès, the posturing of the Interim Committee to force dropping the atomic bombs on Japan, the Paris Commune, Cortés’ massacre in Cholula, Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Haitian revolt of 1791, and many others, all belonging to his real work. To this continuum of events, he added the involvement of Fischer and Gretchen. As he pondered them—all happening at once in his mind—the eight arms sprung from his torso. Once again, the arms created an arc around him amidst moving images, each demanding from him a hand, a word, an action, an approval, or some form of choice. A god was coming to life reluctantly.




Titus stood up from the red couch. The journey was pleasant, he thought. They had refined the travel and he was not as dizzy. There was no sense he had traveled two thousand kilometers in a few seconds.

He sat down in an open-air amphitheatre built into a curved hillside facing a large plateau. Nearby was an evergreen forest and crystal-clear lake. The air was pungent with the smell of pine.

Titus breathed in the air and relaxed, relieved to be here. Beside him sat Oriana. Both wore long gold gowns.

Another traveler arrived just after him and walked to the podium to address the thousands sitting in the plateau.

Oriana smiled, snuggled closer to him, kissed his cheek, and grabbed his hand.

When she did, a gold disc he was holding fell to the ground. The sight of it there reminded him of an event when the same gold disc lay on the floor by his desk in his apartment. Quicker than his journey to the couch, he was transported to his apartment staring down at the disc on the floor.


He thought at first it was a button from one of Oriana’s blouses, but as he drew closer to it, he could see it was not a button. He picked up the disc and set it on his desk, moving it around with his fingernail as if it had some disease on it. Anything that did not belong in this existence Titus suspected. The reverse side was black and had a single group of white letters along the top which were now unreadable without a magnifying glass. Under the letters was a silhouette, under the silhouette in very tiny print were three numbers: 1793, 1874, and 3764.

A couple of months prior to seeing the disc, Titus and Oriana were at a dinner party with staff and professors from the university, as well as officials from the police and government. The dinner was to honor the election of Dr. Sophia Hilliard as the new mayor. Dr. Hilliard was once a professor of entomology at the university and then became president of the university.

They were all seated at a massive oak oval table in the university’s main conference area.

A tiny golden creature flew into the room and said, “Wake up, wake up” with the sound of a crow. Everyone saw and heard it. Someone joked it was the spirit of the recently deceased Astronomy Professor Aaron Lazan, who liked to yell “wake up” into the ears of students who fell asleep in the cavernous hall where he gave his lectures.

Titus knew the creature and why it had come. Recently it had flown into his office, perched on a bookcase at the side of his desk, stared at Titus for a few minutes, then flew out without uttering a word.

While Titus was tracking its flight around the conference room, it had flown under the table. To the surprise of the guests, Titus went on to all fours under the table and looked for it. Oriana followed him and found it squashed under the foot of one of the guests. She handed it to Titus. He wrapped it in a couple of napkins, placed it in his coat pocket, and went to the kitchen to find hopefully a suitable container. Sophia followed him and took photographs of it.

The head was smashed, but the rest was unharmed.

Sophia found the creature quite unusual. As an entomologist, she at first hoped it was an unknown insect species.

After she went into the closet of her lab to fetch a cage, Titus opened the lab window, and returned to the creature.

இசைவு!” Titus learned down and whispered. “இப்போது விடு!”[1]

The creature sprang to life and flew out the window.

Later the three of them examined the photographs and tried to classify it.

“It’s a freak,” Sophia said, “a hybrid. What do you think?”

Titus shrugged and pretended not to know.

What he did know was that the disc and the creature were signs. His real life was bleeding into his existence as a professor. Why this was happening was also known to him. Gretchen could wait no longer. She would not allow him to exist anymore. He had other responsibilities. A shift was occurring, and soon the key participants would arrive. The gold flying creature—Ratanna—was one of those participants helping Gretchen. Otherwise, as someone supposedly retired or convalescing, Ratanna would not be out rampaging as a hybrid in front of a crowd of people at a dinner event.


Titus returned the gold disc to the precise location where he found it, on the floor next to the chair. Then he went to bed and fell asleep.

A loud knocking awoke him in the morning.

“What is it?” he said gruffly, still half asleep without opening the door.

“Es Midia. Estábamos preocupados por ti. Siempre estás en clase. Nadie podría contactarte.[2]

“What class?” Titus said, still groggy.

“Dos clases,[3] profesor.”

Titus waited for her to be specific.

Leyendo filosofía árabe medieval", she said, "y el Dao De Jing en chino.”[4]

Titus looked at the clock on his desk. It said one PM. He shook his head. Arabic was at eight thirty and Chinese at ten. He missed both classes. Another sign.

“¿Estás bien, profesor?” Midia asked after he did not respond. “¿Es mi español?”[5]

Titus required his graduate students in Global Studies to learn and practice different languages constantly with each other and with him.

“No, no. I’m fine, I’m fine. I overslept. Is there something else?”

नहीं, मैं शुक्रवार को आपसे बात करूंगा।. अलविदा.[6]

She left.

He stood with his back up against the door trying to determine how he could have missed the classes. Not only had he never slept that long, but he was not even that tired when he went to bed.

A glass of water would clear his mind.

After drinking the water, a thought occurred to him: Was Midia his student?

Titus ran to the hallway and called down the staircase.

“Hello? Midia?”

She walked back up the stairs.

हाँ जी, सर.”[7]

“What did you want to talk about?” he asked.

She looked at him. He was in a bathrobe in bare feet and his chest partly exposed.

मुझे माफ करें श्रीमान। यह अच्छा समय नहीं है। मैं आपके कार्यालय में आपसे बात करूंगा।.”[8]

Titus hesitated and thought about the university rules of professor-student contact.

“Are you sure you’re OK?” she said, as she walked backward to the stairs. “I could get a doctor.”

“No, no, don’t be concerned. I’m a little confused this morn…afternoon. But it’s fine. You can come in. I just want--”

“--no, sir. I’m sorry. Not after what happened to Charlotte with Professor Lazan.”

Charlotte was one of his students. Lazan? What had this to do with him?

“I don’t want to get into trouble, sir,” she said. “Charlotte may lose her scholarship and be dismissed. I was hoping you might help.”

“Fine, fine. Go. I’ll talk to you on Wednesday.”

“Friday, sir,” Midia corrected him. “Today is Wednesday.”

“Right. Friday.”

Then he slipped into another phase of his life and recalled Midia was indeed his student. He remembered her weakness in Mandarin when she was accepted into the program.

“And Midia, don’t forget to practice your Mandarin. So many of you are avoiding it because of the recent events in China. It’s the government, remember, not the Chinese people or the culture. You need it to pass your orals.”

你能幫她嗎?”[9] Midia asked.

“I need to know more. Have her call me.”

我們很高興聽到你的聲音. 祝賀. 我們非常自豪和感激你在那裡.[10]

He looked at her and smiled.

“إنها أضعف لغتي, she said. سأعمل بجد أكبر”[11]

“You’re doing fine. Keep at it.”

Titus went toward his bedroom and looked over at the desk as he passed. The disc was gone.

Why was she congratulating him?

He dressed and tried to clear his mind by critiquing a research report of one of his students.

In an hour, Charlotte called.

“I just spoke with Midia,” she said. “I’m sorry to bother you.”

“It’s not a bother. Please. Tell me what happened.”

“Should I use English, sir?” Charlotte asked.

“Use your native language.”

“Danke, Herr. Es war nicht meine Schuld. Er belästigte mich. Und er lügt, um sich zu schützen. Er hatte Sorgen um seine Rente. Können Sie helfen?”[12]

He did not answer immediately because he had almost no personal knowledge of Charlotte. She was one of his graduate students, he saw her in class, he occasionally had meetings with her at his office on the progress of her thesis, but beyond pleasantries and these professional duties, he had no contact.

“Herr Professor?” Charlotte said. “Sind Sie da?”[13]

“Yes, yes. I’ll see what I can do.”

Titus planned on speaking with the Dean to hear why he made this decision.”

“How did it happen?” he asked.

“Ich ging in sein Büro. Ich weigerte mich. Er bedrohte mich. Er sagte, ich würde mein Stipendium verlieren. Dann er an, mich auszuziehen [14]

“—I understand,” Titus interrupted her. “How long had you been seeing him?”

“Was? Nein, Herr Professor, nie. Ich hatte kein Interesse an ihm. Ich bin nicht einmal in seiner Abteilung. Aber es ist mehr als einmal passiert.[15]

“Did you tell anyone about it?”

“Nur Midia und Oriana. I went straight to the Dean. Ich war so verärgert.”[16]

“You know Oriana?”

“Sie ist meine Mitbewohnerin. Professor Lazan ist ihr Berater.[17] That’s how I met him. At the Astronomy department party.”

Titus paused and thought about Aaron Lazan: Near the end of his career, well-liked by the faculty, some students described him as a grandfather figure, not the kind of man Titus would suspect.

“OK, I’ll look into it, Charlotte. Don’t worry. If all is as you say, it’ll be fine. Thanks for letting me know. Please arrange for therapy at Student Services. Tell them I sent you.”

He hung up the phone and asked himself: Why did this event find me? What was real about it? Was it happening or had it already happened? How was it supposed to happen? Whom should I nurture?



[1] Leave! Leave now!

[2] It’s Midia. We were worried about you. You’re always in class. No one could reach you.

[3] Two classes.

[4] Reading Medieval Arabic Philosophy, and the Dao De Jing in Chinese.

[5] Are you OK, professor? Is it my Spanish?”

[6] No, I’ll talk to you on Friday. Bye.

[7] Yes, sir?

[8] I’m sorry, sir. This isn’t a good time. I’ll talk to you at your office.

[9] Can you help her?

[10] We’re excited to hear you. Congratulations. We’re very proud and grateful to you for being there.

[11] It’s my weakest language. I’ll work harder.

[12] Thank you, sir. It wasn’t my fault, sir. He molested me. And he lied to protect himself. He has worries about his pension. Can you help?”

[13] Sir? Are you there?

[14] I went to his office. I refused. He threatened me. He said I would lose my scholarship. Then he started to undress me--

[15] What? No, sir, never. I had no interest in him. I’m not even in his department. But it happened more than once.

[16] Only Midia and Oriana. I was so upset.

[17] She’s my roommate. Professor Lazan is her advisor.

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