Monday, September 28, 2020

A memory: 28 September 1972

An evening class at Cowell College, UC Santa Cruz, just a couple of days into Fall Quarter. I am, two years later, a freshman again, having been granted a second bite at the apple. A dozen or twenty fellow freshmen gathered around a circular table in a smallish room. At some point before the class came to order a noxious bug, something like a fly, but blacker, slower, softer, was buzzing about my head. I swatted at it, and on its second or third pass contrived to propel it across the room and into the face of the young woman directly opposite me across the table. Fate, it appears, will sometimes hinge upon an insect. At close of class, as we all dispersed outdoors, I caught up with the girl and apologized. We walked together across the Cowell upper quad. As we passed a first floor room (the same room which my younger brother was briefly to occupy thirteen years later) she noticed a political poster on the wall, visible through the window. “That’s Russian!” she exclaimed. It happened that I’d just that summer commenced my infatuation with all things Slavic. “Oh? You know Russian?” At which point Veronica—for it was the legendary, now departed Veronica—clammed up (a speaker of Russian since infancy, she’d just had demonstrated to her earlier in the day her deficiencies in the written language, and was smarting in consequence) with a charming and ambiguous disclaimer. I saw her to the ground floor of her dorm, and set off to College V, half a mile distant. “Here comes a girlfriend,” I thought, correctly, and would have whistled, had I ever learned how. Actually, that’s never stopped me. I strode across campus, in the dark through the trees, emitting low, hoarse, lighthearted hoots through my pursed lips, forming clouds before me in the cool, slightly damp autumnal air.

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