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The Baggage

This is the sixth installment of a series about the Mountain Dude.  The Mountain Dude, some readers may recall, made a few enigmatic appearances in JJ in the 21st Century.

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I hate the term ESP. It evokes images of second rate documentaries, complete with gauzy slide shows projected into the mind of a paranormal freak from his spooky muse. I may be a freak, but I don’t feel like that kind of freak. Abnormal, maybe. Unsettled, yes. But, look around. Who the hell wants to be normal these days?

Plus it doesn’t come to me in visions. It’s more like a knowing, like when a word or memory goes missing then comes back, emerging from the blank place fully formed and plain as day. You know the blank place? It’s not a there/their/they’re sort of thing. It’s like when you forget how to spell a common word like “restaurant” and you spell it “resturant” and it looks wrong on the page, feels wrong, but you can’t pull the correct spelling from you brain. It’s in the blank space. Then you remember and it’s there again, unblemished, plain as day.

That’s how the sense about people emerges. The knowledge breaks the surface like a sea creature, a roiling of the water then a sudden appearance.

An example from college. A class in 20th Century European literature. The professor, a younger man with strong opinions passing for passion. He tries to compensate for his lack of gravitas with the affects of the academic. Long hair cut to shoulder length. The glasses. The sweater. The vague smell of pot and cats.

The secret undergrad girlfriend.

How do I know? Because I was in love with her, too.

We were in a class discussion about Thomas Mann, “Death in Venice”, and listing the portents of a descent into fluid unreasonable fetid passion when something was triggered and I just knew that he was sleeping with my friend and secret love Alex. I knew because I felt his worry that she was not in class that day, but his worry had nothing to do with her health or well-being. His worry had everything to do with a recent spat and what she might be doing that very moment that might lead to discovery, humiliation, and termination of his employment.

That son of a bitch.

Standing up there holding forth on these old world authors. Sleeping with my Alex. (Granted, she was no one’s Alex, would never be anyone’s Alex, and that’s one of the reasons I loved her.)

Clearly something had to be done.

Looking back, it’s easy to see that a proportionate response to a common human foible might include sidling up to Professor Pompous Ass after class and just letting him know that I know thus increasing his worry, making him squirm, but not destroying him or his career.

But, I didn’t know about proportionate response. Or about careers. I was just all thwarted love and impulse.

So I followed him after class.

It was midmorning and, sure enough, he headed over toward Alex’s apartment just off campus. There weren’t too many people around, too early for the lunch rush, and I ducked behind a thick tree when he comically turned to scan behind him before entering the building. I waited a few minutes before following him in. At Alex’s door, after pressing my ear to the door, but before barging into the apartment, there was a vague sense that I should just walk away. But…

ESP plus poor impulse control. Not a good combo.

They weren’t having sex. They weren’t embracing. Professor Pomp sat on the couch, leaning forward with his head in his hands. Alex (my Alex!) stood in a bathrobe near the window, smoking a cigarette and looking down at the Professor. It looked like a photo with streaming sunlight from the window, cigarette smoke in the sun rays, her in profile, him straight on in misery. A photo entitled, “The Breakup”.

Of course they were surprised to see me. My righteous anger dissipated almost immediately upon entering and I just stood there and we all looked at each other before I backed out and closed the door and fled.

He kept his job. Alex never spoke to me again. I tried to apologize, once. She said, “Fuck off, creep”. I dropped 20th Century European Literature and then transferred to another school in another state at semester’s end. I moved on.

I’m always moving on.

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