Dear Professor
By Luisa Reichardt


Our coming together
was ordinary enough.
He was a resume
with an interesting twist.

I picked him from the "no"
pile sitting at my feet
and, holding him in my hands,
convinced the committee we should call.

He came in a shiny, red Toyota,
a crisp, new driver's license
placed carefully in his wallet,
eyes on the road ahead.

In time, we were a pair --
for meals and conversation,
smiles across the table and telephone,
shared confidences and philosophies.


When he called to say he was ill
and I left work quickly,
no one was surprised.

Pillowcases hung over the windows.
Garbage spilled onto the kitchen floor.
He lay in bed, breathing hard.

I told him we would go
to the hospital,
the good one forty minutes away.

I gave the nurse his insurance card
while he clung to a blue baseball cap,
turning it over many times in his hands.

They called his name and helped him
into a wheelchair. When I saw him next,
he lay on a gurney, covered by a starched
white sheet.

Every day, I went to visit and stayed late.
We talked of the Pope and Jesus.
Nurses came with questions and pills.


When it was my turn to take on his care
I brought a smile to his door.
"I need to talk to you," he said.

He told me it was AIDS,
That he had known from the beginning
why he was sick.

I needed to move. I walked through
the food court that looked like a mall,
past the room where patients do puzzles.

Slowly, shapeless and smothering
disbelief became a package
that I moved to the side.

I took the professor with another life
home with me. We ate and watched
television, and he told me who he was.


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