I'm posting twice for at least some weeks in January. I am doing something unusual with timing this month; the events of each post may be much more or much less than a week apart. This post is set in the final week of January, 2004. -D.
The masters are back on campus. I'm a little surprised; I thought they stayed gone a little longer. Perhaps they have in years past. But today, right after sunset, I bumped into Allen on my way across campus, heading back towards the Mansion from the woods. So, obviously he's back, and I think he's usually one of the later ones to return, because he and his family goes to the Florida Keys for the month of January, and I understand they like it down there.
Anyway, he was bundled up in a snow suit so I almost didn't recognize him, but he recognized me and wanted to talk. We'd been going in opposite directions, so stopped and talked where we were, standing in the snow.
He asked me how and what I was doing, and I told him about my January, how we've had a couple of parties and things for the graduating class recently, and there are rumors that we'll have another in the next day or so, but nobody seems to know anything. I asked him about his vacation, and he told me about snorkeling with his kids, birding with David by sea-kayak, and getting back to Key West a couple of times, a place he loves.
"Wow, I think I'm jealous," I told him.
"I think you'd miss the snow," he said, with a smile. "Listen, I'm glad I got hold of you. You know how hectic these last couple of days can be," he added, even though no, I didn't know. I've never found the last days of January to be hectic, nor have I ever noticed anyone else around here seeing stressed then. But I nodded, and he went on. "What are you doing after you graduate?"
"I'm hiking the Appalachian Trail with Rick, then, hopefully I'll work the summer as a back-country caretaker somewhere, and then go to graduate school for conservation biology."
"Sounds challenging. And fun."
"Yes, well, I hope so."
"It will be. Both. Listen, though, you're going to have problems."
"Problems?" I asked.
"Problems, nothing major, I don't think, but you wouldn't expect them, I don't think, so that's why I wanted to tell you."
"You've never really lived on your own, have you?"
"I've lived on my own for four and a half years," I objected.
"No, you've lived away from your parents for four and a half years. Daniel, you are a man. It's not your fault you've been living like a boy, but you have been."
"I've been...." I was confused, and a little angry.
"Yes, you have. You have, all your life, and especially in the last four years, lived entirely within a world designed by people who love you, understand the circumstances of your life, and want the best for you. After next week, that will no longer be true. I don't mean that everyone will be cruel, or even necessarily indifferent, but you'll have to carry your support system with you. You won't be able to depend on it finding you. You will have to advocate for yourself proactively. It won't be bad, but it will be different, and if you didn't know about it, it could throw you. So I wanted to let you know."
Among other issues, the masters love me? Also, how am I supposed to respond to a friendly warning that my life is about to change...and the fact that Allen evidently thinks I can't figure that part out for myself (I mean, yes, I'm graduating. It'll be different. Obviously)....
What do I say?
"Hey, Allen, are you planning something?"
"Me? Of course. I'm planning lots of things."
But his eyes were twinkling,
"No, I mean...never mind. I don't want to know."
"Why not?" he asked.
"Because you're planning a surprise and I don't want to ruin it for myself."
"Daniel, you've got to have more faith in us than that."
"If we don't want you to know something, don't you think we can keep it from you?"
"Anyway, only by trying as hard as you can to understand the universe do you find out for sure that you can't completely understand it. The Mystery doesn't need you to protect it; the Mystery needs you to pursue it."
"Allen, I have no idea what to say to that." And I didn't.
"Take care of yourself, Daniel," he said, clapped me on the shoulder, and walked away.
Why do I get the feeling he just said goodbye to me?