The ProfessorJuly 30, 2011
My fiance doesn’t believe in ghosts in the spooky sense, but he did tell me one story that may or may not have a ghost in it.
When he was a freshman, heading home from a class where he’d just been handed back a D test in Calculus, there was a sudden bit of rain and he ducked into the library. Now, being the sort of guy he was, he decided exploring the building would be more productive than getting rained on, so he heads down to the basement, looking around and stuff. Place was pretty deserted, it being Friday afternoon and all.
He finally got to the oversized-art-books section (the arts program and engineering are taught on the one campus at our school,) and discovered this old man in a corduroy jacket and vest, sleeping in one of the big leather library chairs. My fiance didn’t want to wake him, so he turned quietly and started to pick up a random book. The old guy woke up, said hello, and asked him which book he was looking at. My fiance told him and the old man told him ‘no, that one’s crap,’ and pointed out ‘a better one.’ Apparently there was something damned weird about the old guy, because my fiance thanked him, took the art book, and started to go. Then the old man asked him if he was in Professor Whatsisname’s class. When my fiance replied that he was, the old man started to laugh and began dissing the professor as a prissy little upstart. He asked my fiance’s name and the two of them got to talking, mostly about the class. Apparently the old guy was a professor of some kind, but my fiance didn’t get his name. They had a fine chat and then the old guy noticed the time and said that he had to leave. He shook my fiance’s hand and wished him the best of luck.
On a whim, fiance checked out the art book, even though he’d never been interested in art at all. It was a collection of Toulouse-Lautrec paintings, and when he got back to the dorm, he started looking at the pictures, thought they were kinda nice, but no big deal. Towards the middle, though, a typewritten sheet of paper falls out -it’s a sheet of proofs for some of the hardest equations in the class he was taking, like the Holy Grail of cribsheets. It being September of 2001, he had no idea why anyone would have used a typewriter for that, unless it’d been there for years. He figured the old guy had tipped him off and resolved to thank him if he found him again. He didn’t, but it’s a big school, so he assumed it was no big deal.
Senior year rolled around and he met this upstarty little freshman girl who was nevertheless interesting enough to date. (Me. He wasn’t my fiance yet then, but you get it.) One of his engineering classes was in the same building with my Appreciation of Art 102, and walking back, I decided to show him one of my favorite paintings that we’d just looked at in class, this one, (new window) and we headed into the library. When I picked up the same book in which he’d found the cribsheet, he told me the whole story. I thought it was pretty cool and suggested we check the professors’ office listing to see if he remembered the old guy’s name. We had nothing better to do, so we went upstairs , intending to head out and go read the professors’ names.
When we got upstairs, though, a workman was installing a plaque under a big bracket, the kind they use for picture frames, in the new lounge (read: six comfy chairs and a table,) across from the Circulation desk. He dropped a screw and my fiance went and got it for him, asked him what kind of drill it was…you know men and power tools, they talked for a good five minutes while I stood there trying not to look bored as hell. Anyway, worker guy finished up and lifted the painting into place above the little plaque.
“They’re dedicating this new lounge tomorrow…I think there’ll be free food if you want to come.” My fiance had gone all pale, staring like there was something scary up on the wall. “Uhh…you okay?”
The painting was of the old man. He had been head librarian until his death in 2001…August 2001, and the new lounge was to be named in his honor. My fiance got all sad and placed the Lautrec book on the table of the new lounge, I guess to thank the librarian in the only way possible, and then brightened up a bit, remarking on what a nice coincidence it was: the librarian had showed him Toulouse-Lautrec and now he was dating a girl who liked that painter. “Must’ve liked his students to be prepared!”
When I asked him exactly when he had met the old guy, later, he told me it was right after he’d gotten his first test back and then explained, at length, precisely why and how the sheet of proofs had been so helpful. I do not understand calculus, so my mind wandered a little, and even as he was extolling the present that he’d received, I realized they don’t even give a test in Calc 1 until the last day of August. The librarian passed away on August 15.
I decided not to press the issue. My fiance doesn’t believe in ghosts.
//Benevolent and matchmaker-y? Sure, why not?