Table Talk

Posted: December 6, 2011 in Fiction

“It is not for us to find meaning in who we are or what we do, rather our task in life is to create meaning from those we’ve known, who we’ve become and what we leave behind.”

This was the most notable part of the lecture for Sulèma as she walked out of Professor Contajez’s history class.  She loved history. Had loved it since childhood when her father would read her excerpts from his favorite books.  It was stories from the Romans and the Greeks that coddled her ears as she drifted off to sleep in his arms.  After Sunday dinners, he’d read accounts of citizen journals from Palestine during British occupation.  She had always been fascinated, and often found encouragement, how love and family, friendships and the arts persisted and sometimes flourished under the cruelest of circumstances, be it in Palestine under the British Mandate or in Nazi Germany.  And she marveled at how even so close to home, in America and Mexico, terrible things had taken place. Things that brought a multitude of people to the brink of their very existence and how even then people’s faith, hope, and love – her mother’s favorite words – pressed on in stark determination.

The cold had blown in just as she walked out of Rhode Hall.  The timing was perfect too. She felt the sharp shift of the temperature as she approached her bicycle by the library.  She had plans to spend her lunch break reading, as usual, but decided to stop by the coffee shop instead.  The sudden change in weather had been very persuasive.  As she headed toward the Student Union Building, her mind was adrift with images from Dr. Contajez’s lecture on Revolt and Revolution.  They covered the great Jewish revolt against the Romans as told by Josephus.  It seemed to her rather interesting, if far removed, but she found herself eager for the next lecture which would focus on the French, American and Mexican revolutions.  These she had heard about a number of times from her father and their readings together.  She wondered if professor Contajez would say the same thing her father always said; about how the chaos in Mexico was more a rebellion than a revolution.  And this was all it took to anchor her to memories of her father, memories that brushed cold on her emotions as the cold wind that swept across her face.  He had passed away some years before, diabetes had struck its interminable changes upon yet another soul.

–A coffee, please. Five creams, five sugars.

Glancing across the room, she noticed a familiar face. It was Priscilla, her classmate.  Walking toward her, the conversation erupted:

~Fancy meeting you her Sùli, great minds think alike!

–Yes, this weather just begs for Joe.  I didn’t see you in class today, what gives?

~I was running late, couldn’t find parking so I decided to skip the last half hour of class and come here.  I can copy your notes right?

–You may.

Sulèma set her things down, letting her backpack fall onto the chair.

~Was it boring again?  I can’t stand history. All those names and dates. I just drift off into sleep.

–It happens.

A long pause nudged a space into the conversation. And Priscilla could see something was amiss.

~What’s with you? You’re usually loquacious when it comes to this stuff, que pasa Mufasa?

–Just pensive is all.  I was reminded of my dad on the way over.  It’s been two years now and I just miss him I guess.  The last thing Montajez said today was eerily familiar.

Priscilla waited on her, perhaps in hope that she would reveal what the Professor had said. But nothing came.  Shrugging off the mystery, she bubbled:

~You know what? Tell me a story about him. I bet that will ease your mind. Go on, we have time.

Priscilla waved her hands in a beckoning motion, encouraging her to give over to the suggestion.

–Well, OK.

–In his younger days, my dad loved playing the guitar. It was his first love he always said. After he came back from Vietnam, and met my mom, he didn’t play much anymore.  He took to reading a lot.  Most of my memories growing up were of him reading, history and poetry mostly, but he read anything and everything. He often quoted Kafka: books, like music he’d say, were like an axe for the frozen sea within us. And he would read to me.  Not fairy tales or things like that, but stories from history.  Sometimes though, on rare occasions, after dinner usually, he’d pull out his old guitar and play for us.  Not many songs, and not really all that well, just what he could remember.  And my mom and I would dance along to the music.

She paused, staring off into the distance, letting the space speak for itself.

–That’s what I dream about. Not the stories he read, though I miss those dearly. But him playing guitar on our porch for my mother and I.

She continued, digging her elbows into the table.

–You see Priscilla, that is what history is.  It’s change and effect.  It’s about love and loss, music and memory.  It’s about life remembered.

Backing away from the table, she let off a sharp sigh before taking a sip of her coffee.

–I really do feel better. That suggestion was magical Priscilla, thank you.

~No worries, it’s the least I could do for copying your notes.  Mind if I take them home? I have to run pretty soon.

–Not at all. Go ahead.  I will see you in class on Friday, yes?

~For sure.  I cannot miss another lecture.  And if I don’t leave now, I’ll miss English Lit, too.  Ciao, Sùli.

And the two went about their day, leaving their table talk behind, better off than before.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s