Thursday afternoon. The day began under blue skies, but a cloak, cool and gray, fell over the world around the lunch hour. Energy for the work week has become the last mile of a marathon –– arms no longer open to the wind, eyes fixed on the finish line, soon we will be there.
‘Hello,’ a student greets me, grinning at my office door. I’m focused on an email (always, always focused on an email), so I promise her I’m just about ready. I type a response, reading it aloud to ensure I’ve got the wording right. I set my monitor to rest, turn to her and raise my eyebrows. ‘Coffee?’
We venture to a spot nearby, place our orders at the counter –– soy latte for me, black coffee for her. By some stroke of fortune, we snag a table by the window, conversation framed like a portrait for the abundance of passersby. We dive in, and all the familiar elements emerge first: things are busy but moving, there’s a lot to get done, where’d the semester go and thank god for winter break. Suddenly, just beneath something she says, I sense pain. My mind presses me to gloss over it, move the conversation forward, but my heart digs in. So I ask her if she’s being gentle with herself. Her eyes water. The conversation swells profoundly, vibrantly human.