When the body quakes and the heart can't say goodbye

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

It rained yesterday.  The wind blew, the skies were gray, and I wasn't ready for it, dressed poorly.  I took the train into 30th Street, walked the many blocks to the Penn campus, bought a cookie and a bottle of water, and made my way to my classroom.  I was meeting with my students, one by one.  Bring me your questions, I'd told them.  Talk to me about whatever is on your mind.  Their summer jobs.  Their fascination with lyrics. Their profiles, in progress.  Their stories about first love and remembered love.  Their forecasts of their futures.  This piece she had read in The New Yorker.  Here, she said, slipping the magazine from her bag and reading to me from passages underlined with her own black ink.  I'd like to write like that, she said.

The room was cold and dark. Their hair was damp from the rain.  I began, two hours in, to shiver.  By the end a certain palsy had set in, a fire in my throat and ears, an inner convulsion.  Only one week left with these students whom I love, and it wasn't just my heart protesting; it was every bone and fiber.

Do you think you could pick me up at the station? I called and asked my husband, for by the time I reached 30th Street and got back on that train I was incapable of going any farther.  He picked me up and brought me home.  I slept from dusk to dawn.  Love hurts like that.  Goodbyes do.


Becca said...

I remember coming home in tears many times after saying good bye to a particularly cherished class of students. The hope and promise shining in their eyes, the energy they impart, the fresh ideas... they leave a mark on the heart and the soul and we are definitely the richer for it.

Caroline Starr Rose said...

One of my "boys" contacted me a few months ago. They never stop being your own.

Beth F said...

That's part I miss most about the university. Students at the end of term telling me they were changing their major because of me, the enthusiasm. That's what sticks (not the kid in the back row who always seemed bored).

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