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If You're Out There

Mae was an Irish expat who looked like a man.  I thought she was a lost hero, running from her real identity and the IRA.  When she walked into my office that first day, her toothy grin brighter than sunshine, I knew I was in for an adventure and liked her right away.

Mae thrust out her heavy hand, and I took it into mine.  We shook and I gestured toward a chair.

“No, I won’t stay long.”

Her Eire accent and gentle words played on my ears. I found myself smiling unwillingly.  “You must be tired from your long trip.  I understand you drove all the way?”

“Yes, from Northern California,” she replied.

“Alright,” I said.  Down to business, then.  I collected her file and the envelope of papers she’d brought with her.  “All you have left to do is sign your admissions forms.  You’ll do that in Darby Hall.”

After a brief hesitation, I asked if she had a place to live.

“Oh, don’t worry about me.  I’ll be fine,” she smiled again.

“Then let me get the key and show you to your office space.”

It didn’t take long for her to pick a desk in a corner of the large graduate office.  She peered out of the 7th floor window onto the campus grounds.

“It’s the best view, I think,” I offered.

“Yes, this will be fine.”

Mae was older than most graduate students in the department.  I had looked at her file: 67 years.  She looked immensely healthy and strong.  Her long, fine hair flowed down her wide back.  Her green eyes caught me looking at her.  I blushed.

“Thank you for your kindness,” she said.  “I’ll be off now.”

**

I didn’t encounter Mae for some time after.  When I did see her, she was quiet with few words.  Since that first day I wished to know her better.

Further into the semester I gathered the courage to ask her to lunch.

“Oh, I’ve brought my beg.”

“I’m sorry.”  I asked, “What did you say?”

“I guess here you would call it a ‘sack.’”  Her eyes were mischievous.  “I’d like that,” she responded.

**

Mae and I became good friends.  We smoked and drank bourbon and played pool.  People in the bars watched us in wander and amusement.  Her tall frame next to my petite build caught us the names Mutt and Jeff.  No mind, though, we enjoyed talking and bantering, laughing and even crying together.  I felt younger than I ever had, sowing my wild oats, so to say.  She gave me pieces of wisdom she said to carry with me when she was gone.  Little did I know that would be sooner than I realized.

As I knew her, I felt changes inside of myself.  I yearned for more, to earn a degree, to be more serious about my beau.  I learned that there was more to life than a small college town and years of government employment.  Because of her, I was different somehow.

**

I dreamed about Mae this morning.  All of the fragments of memory from twenty years ago coalesced and I thought she was really here.  Every bit of emotion I had ever had toward her crept into my being.  It was like a light, intense, yet gentle.  She was with me again, cheering me on.

Mae completed her Ph.D. in a record-setting two years.  She took a job in the school from where she’d come in California.  I visited her once soon after she moved.  I heard from her for a couple of years, then never again.  She’d come and gone like an iridescent butterfly that touched my very soul.  I have never been the same.

I do miss her, though.  I tried to find her on numerous occasions, but alas, she had disappeared.

If you are out there, Mae, I thank you for being my friend.

Let's be friends

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