I didn't feel like going straight home after work. I look at the clock, and I still have a lot of time before I can break my Friday fast. So I decide to head for one of my favorite haunts, a video arcade. Admittedly, the video game selection is getting smaller in favor of those mechanical games of chance that aren't as costly to maintain as video machines and spit out tickets -- gotta hook those kids on gambling early.
None of the games, not even DDR, really grabbed me. So, I'm sitting in the snack area, reading through my paper. And I hear a familiar voice.
"Some things never change."
My head snaps around. Standing beside me and smiling at me is my teacher. It takes my brain a few moments to process this. She's out in California! Turns out another of her students from around here has not only weathered the rough economy, but is actually getting ahead. He flew her out to help celebrate Easter and to help bless his home and his family. But, she knew there were others who would want to run into her. Especially the sarcastic jackass who can't stop his compulsive overachieving. So she was spending some time visiting others. Based on my communications, she figured I was having a rough go, and remembering my behavior, wagered where I would be. What can I say? She's never wrong.
I wrap her in the biggest hug I've given anyone in ages. Probably the biggest since she moved on all those years ago. She still smells like patchouli and frankincense. I can't even begin to say how happy and relieved I am to see her again. It really has been too long. Somehow, the dual CPU's in my head get in sync. I offer to treat her to an iced tea (she fasts on Fridays during Lent as well) and to spring for dinner once 6PM hits. She accepts. She teases me about the decrease in hair on my head. I tease her about the Kate Goesslin cut she's sporting.
And so we begin catching up. I didn't intend to stay out as late as I did. It's strange. It's almost like no time has passed. And it's not because we keep in touch over the Internet. We are picking up and acting like the old friends we are, not a beat missing.
As we're out, she sees a music store and suggests we go inside. As we look over all the instruments (the keyboards, my favorites), we come to the drum section. She is looking over a Roland electronic kit. I dismiss it as proprietary bullshit (okay, I didn't use THAT word around her, but she knows what I meant). She asks me to try playing it a little bit. I say, I can't. She says, but you're learning to play the drums. I respond, off and on due to schedule, I'm just some putz who plays too much Rock Band.
Remembering I'm a Harry Potter fan, she says, "Just pretend you're drumming for a wizard rock band."
I don't think I drum good enough for a wizard rock band.
"Okay, then pretend you're drumming for the White Stripes."
A-yuk. (I should note the guy behind the counter thought that was funny.)
So I just do a very basic, rudimentary rock beat. Strictly quarter notes, an occasional short roll, switching between hats and ride as I see fit.
"That was good."
That was amateur hour stuff.
"It was still good." Once again, I shouldn't be thinking that I'd be Neil Peart after less than a year of trying this.
We continue to talk and wander. I tell her more about Project X and other stuff I'm cooking up, and she can't wait to read more. She tells me about some of her new students. She notices my frequent scans of the surrounding area, even though there's almost no chance of getting mugged in this environment. As we talk, she is asking me questions. We used to do this all the time when she was here. It was her way of gauging what I'd learned and what I was trying to figure out. What conclusions have I reached about who I was, who I am, who I want to be, and who I might be. I always get a little nervous. She has all the answers, and I don't want to disappoint her.
Before she left all those years ago, she gave certain students their own envelope, each with contents specific to the recipient. She gave me mine and told me not to open it until she said I could.
What's in it?
Partway through our talk, she told me, when I get home, open the envelope. I push it out of my mind, I want to record as much of the now as I can.
It's finally time to say goodbye. She has to get to the church so she can mediate and be ready for the morning. I ask if I'll see her again before she leaves, she says she isn't sure, there's a lot of others to visit. Would I like to come by for Easter dinner? Nah, I said, I won't intrude. She tries to convince me I won't be intruding, but this is one time I won't let her break my stubbornness.
I get home. My hands are shaking, it takes me a moment to get the key in the locks. I go underneath my bed for the Box O' Forbidden Knowledge. I open it and dig out the envelope. My legendary impatience wins out, I jam my finger under the flap and rip it open.
Inside is a letter. A long letter. Explaining who I was, who I am, who I want to be, and who I might be. They are things I've thought about since the day she left. Since I wouldn't have immediate access to her, it meant I had to have to take responsibility for my development. And I promised to make her proud.
Aside from a detail here and there, everything she wrote matched everything I have come to know. And the stuff that didn't? I thought it over, and concluded she was right. I mean, she hasn't been wrong the entire time I've known her.
She goes back to California Monday morning. I miss her already. But I feel proud. I am living up to her expectations. My life is a tribute to her wisdom. I intend to keep it that way.