Kate finished the editing the last batch of poems and went looking for more. There, in the back of the closet, sat a promising trunk. It held more spiral notepads, crammed with poetry, and a shoebox. In the shoebox, she found letters.
All the notes and cards she’d sent her grandfather were there. She quickly thumbed through the trails of her travel and career. The rest seemed to be from his students, including several from Celeste, requesting recommendations, expressing thanks.
And then there were these three, also from a student, but of a more personal nature.
San Francisco, June 1972
You said to let you know how I was getting on. I’m getting on all right.
I know you feel it was the right decision–choosing music and over academic life. But I’m not so sure. I was a good scholar–you said so yourself. I hoped to find a way to do both, you know?
But I guess I should look at the signs–I got a recording contract, so that’s a positive, right?
The album should be coming out in the fall. We’re about done recording, and soon, we’re heading into post-production.
I’ve been singing at festivals and coffee shops, getting my face out there.
But I feel like there’s this other me that never left the university, that stayed on to get my Ph.D. I miss those afternoons in your office, listening to you dissect the forces behind this screwed up system, and I feel like I’ve sold out, somehow, becoming part of it.
Do you really think–still–that art can make a difference?
It’s been a while. Been busy.
I heard you got named professor emeritus. Congratulations. Guess that means you’re not teaching anymore? Or maybe just a class or two? Hope the lighter load agrees with you. More time for writing, yeah?
Things are cruising along. Guess you know, if you’ve had a chance to follow the scene. I try to keep a low profile, but it’s hard–runs counter to what the publicity agents want!
Thanks for your letter. I’m glad to know you liked the first album. Did you hear the others? I think they’re better–except for the one before this. It’s embarrassing–too pop for my tastes.
Next album will be acoustic. I want people to be able to hear the lyrics, you know?
I still think a lot about the things we talked about. There’s this one afternoon I keep remembering. We’d finished our Plato seminar, and a bunch of us tagged along with you to your office, like we always did. Remember that feeling? Ideas were bursting! We were like, running, to keep up with you–and we couldn’t talk fast enough or listen hard enough, and class was over, but we weren’t.
God, I miss that.
Performing’s a rush, when it’s not a drag. But the only thing that comes close to that is composing.
Anyway. That afternoon–I keep trying to capture it in this song I’m writing. But I don’t know how to get the voices, the sunlight, the shining eyes, your wild laugh, and then those silences when we were all thinking, at once, at the same time, and our separate thoughts combine into one structure, unspoken.
How do I capture that in a song?
I know. You would say, “Start with the poem first.”
And you could do it.
I keep remembering.
Yes, I agree. To get one person to feel, for a moment, that shared experience of consciousness lighting up, within and without: that is enough.
You did that for me.
Thank you for saying that my last album did that for you.
I’m not sure how many more albums I have in me. I want do something else for a while. Teach, maybe.
I still think back on that other me that could have been, and sometimes, when I close my eyes, I see that bespectacled me, satchel on the back, stack of books in the arms, head bent with thought. Overhead, the squirrels chatter through their acrobats on the oak limbs, and beyond the green leaves, the sky–blue, blue, blue.
I think there’s a song there–Other Me
It’s this multitudinous feeling–life, and life, and all of possibility, and everything simultaneous.
You’re right: I am more poet than scholar, like you, my dear mentor.
Hope all is well with you and yours.
In that other life, the one that might have been, can you see me, stepping out of the library, looking across the courtyard, towards you?
Prompt for May 20: “Write A Story In The Form Of A Series of Letters,” from StoryADay.org.