His house was filled with art deco paintings and smelled faintly of tobacco. It made me wish I were anywhere else, not sitting in that exquisite chair, searching for something to say. How do you start a conversation that you've been forced in to having? I honestly thought I would never step foot in this house again. I can already feel my shoulders tensing and we haven't even begun yet.
How much time do I have before he's through saying goodbye to young me? I wonder if she got the same jolt of recognition from seeing my face that I did from hers? Maybe it's easier to recognize your younger self than it is your older version. I hope so. I hope she's just feeling the sting of jealousy right now and not the rest. The knowing that she is one of many. Though maybe it will be a good thing for her. Once she realizes that he probably kept her here just long enough to make sure we would see each other. Will she recognize the subtle manipulation? Would I have? Probably not.
Breathe...just keep breathing. One more thing. Just one more thing from him and then you are free to walk out the door.
God I used to love this room. I felt smarter just sitting here. The paintings, the books, even that smell of pipe tobacco. Before I knew it was all part of his show. Everything in here is a prop. A way to manipulate those around him. Especially a particular type of student. The adoring ones. The girl next door looks with the you hung the moon attitude. God I was so naive. Ten years is a long time. Why does it feel like no time has passed? I swear I can feel myself regressing the longer I sit here. I'm pretty sure I was a capable 30 year old woman when I walked in that door, why do I feel like a helpless 20 something again?
One more thing. I just need one more thing. Okay, you can do this. You still know how to talk to him. How to keep half of the conversation in your head. You can do this.
"Are you comfortable? Can I get you something to drink?"
Nice sneak in behind me. Good touch. Get me off guard to start. "No, thank you, I really can't stay long."
"It was a lovely surprise to have you call to see me."
A surprise? You made sure I had to come here. "I just thought it might be easier for me to stop by with the papers this time."
"Yes, yes, I'm not sure how I missed the last page. But we will get it set to right this time. Did you get my recommendation for the research position?"
The one I didn't ask for? The one I don't want? The one I thanked you for two years ago when you did it? "Yes, I did. Thank you again for thinking of me."
"I'm not sure why you didn't pursue that more?"
"I'm actually quite content in my position with the library." Watch your tone. You don't want to sound argumentative.
"Ah, yes, contentment. I'm not sure why you would settle for content. You know of all of my proteges you really were the most special."
Smile, just smile.
"What is that look?"
Shit, well okay, that wasn't a smile so much as a pained expression. "I just don't think that sounded as flattering out loud as you intended."
"What do you mean? You are gifted. Intelligent. Curious. Settling for content just seems a waste. How can that not be flattering?"
"You're right. Thank you again for thinking of me for the position." Let's see it's not flattering because it implies that there were many before me and many to follow. Even though I am fully aware I was one of many it's nice to pretend.
And why wouldn't I want it? A position at your university? Working for your colleague? That you got for me? Where you could keep tabs on me at all times? Hmmm...I'm not sure why that doesn't sound appealing to me.
"So where were we? One more page to sign?"
"Yes, just the last page. You signed and initialed the others, just missed that final space."
"I must have gotten distracted. You know how many time pressures I am under. I am just surprised my lawyer missed it as well."
Did you think I wouldn't expect you to have a lawyer review this? If you are trying to shock me, try harder. And please, you know as well as I do that you told him you weren't signing the last page and just to send it as it was. "Yes, he must have not been watching close enough at the time."
Pick up the pen. Go on, pick up the pen. Yes! And put it back down. Crap. Deep breath. Just a little longer.
"Does he know who I am?"
Wow. Okay, I wasn't expecting this one. Have you changed? "Yes, of course."
"Is it intimidating for him?"
What? "I'm not sure I understand what you are asking?"
"I mean, it cannot be easy. You meet what you think is just some local librarian and then discover that their last significant other was me? It just seems like those might be big shoes to fill, so to speak."
Oh, okay, no you haven't changed at all. "Well he understands that he can only be who he is and that to think about things that cannot be changed would be foolish."
"So, yes, a bit intimidating I think."
Just give him what he wants so you can leave. "Maybe. Could you blame him?"
Ego soothed and pen up and signed. "No I would guess if I were he and he me I would feel the same way. There you go. Signed."
"Thank you." Now, do I look through all of the pages while I am sitting here or wait and see what he's done after I leave? Look. You know you have to look.
"I can assure you that everything is final now."
"Yes, I'm sure it is. I just want to double check that I didn't miss anything so I don't waste any more of your time with this. I know how busy you are this time of year."
"Well, all times of the year."
"Yes, of course, all times of the year." Smile and look. And yes, it's all here. Signed, initialed, dated and done. "Thank you so much for taking the time to see me to sign this. I appreciate your help."
Now I just need to make my legs work again. Stand up and walk to the door. I'm done. I'm really really done. One last look around. "I can see myself out, no need to get up." My hand on the ornate door knob almost free. I remember the first time I was here. And now this will be the last. Do this one for you, don't walk out that door the helpless young girl he tries to make you, you walk out the confident woman you've become. After all he did help you down that path, even if he doesn't understand how. Stand up straight, head up, "August? Take care of yourself. Be well."
And outside. Deep breath. I did it. I took one last look at the brownstone and...
"Hey, how did it go?" A hand reaching out for mine.
"You waited this whole time?"
"Well of course I did. I knew it would be a rough ride for you. Though honestly, it took less time that I thought."
"Yeah, me too."
"Did he say anything?"
"He said a lot without saying much. As usual."
"Did he ask about ..."
"No, of course not. But he did ask about you."
"Yes. It threw me off, silly me, I thought he was asking about his son."
I saw the look in his eyes as soon as the words left my mouth. Oh shoot, that was the wrong thing to say wasn't it? Then the smile started across his face and I knew that it was all going to be okay. He took the papers from my hand, "Not his son. Not anymore. My son."
"Yes, your son. Our son. Let's go tell him we can make the adoption official in time for his birthday."
And Dana's prompted story. Suits, Cigars and Sonnets
And I'm going to warn you, bring a tissue.