The Professor Ch. 15byearlkrementz©
NOTE TO OUR READERS: This has taken a long time to produce because we took time out to get married – yes to each other! We're concluding our story with this chapter. We'll stay in touch with several of you who have contacted us via email. But mostly Lissia and I are going to get 'caught up on our lives together'. We hope this closing chapter brings everything into focus for you and that you share in our joy.
"How's the cystitis baby?"
She smiled, "It's almost gone, thank you for asking. You make me happy Steven darling."
"Are you still taking the antibiotic?" I was hovering again.
"I am - just like Dr. Andres told me to," she winked.
"Thank you baby I want you to be healthy and happy..."
She tightened her hold on me, "Oh Steven my life is so different because of us; I don't know what adjectives I can use to talk about how I feel – you said you never expected us – I surely didn't; our families didn't either. I don't know what the future holds for us but baby I'm in our relationship for the long haul..."
I kissed her slowly beginning with her forehead and her nose...I kissed every soft spot on her beautiful face and finally her sweet lips. A few weeks back I'd never even shaken hands with a black woman and now I was lost in love with the most beautiful woman I'd ever known or would ever love...she happened to be black. Our relationship had traveled so far past lust that it was a speck in the rear view mirror of our shared personal relationship journey. Our breathing began to match breath for breath and it wasn't long before we were asleep in one another's arms. There is no feeling like falling asleep with the love of your life; feeling her tender touch and soft caress; the lingering fragrance of one another mingled with the sweetness of love.
We awoke to one another after a while, not caring the hour, just filled with a satisfied joy that caresses lovers into forever. We talked about what would happen on Monday when I had to report to school for the ride to Hobby Field. We were both a bit melancholy about my leaving but we knew I had to do this. My greatest heartache was making sure that she and my parents stayed connected while I was away. Mom and Dad would drive over to Lissia's house Monday and the four of us would go to the ROTC area so I could board the bus for Hobby Field. We would have to be careful at school – we discussed our goodbye kiss – think about the stupidity of having to plan your goodbye kiss.
"I need us to talk about something that has been rolling around in my brain ever since your interview for graduate studies and the dual degree," she admitted.
I sat up and rearranged the pillows so we could lean on them against the headboard, "What's troubling you," I asked her as I interlaced our fingers and kissed her lips. I watched her eyes carefully.
"Dr. Kaplan was trying to make you fold and run when he said to you, 'That you quoted Mill precisely – I think it was and he asked, aren't you worried that if you go to war you'll be killed or maimed – and why do that when there's so much work to do here to right so many social wrongs.' Do you remember what you answered him?"
I nodded, "I do. I told Dr. Kaplan that our nation has allies that one of those allies is the government of South Vietnam, whom we promised to help; that there are young men and women in South Vietnam that the Bolsheviks don't want to be successful or to be productive, to learn at the university level, professors like you that they'll murder - doctors, lawyers and religious leaders whose lives are in danger while we chatted idly among ourselves. I told him that his work is here fixing the societal wrongs and that my work is preserving liberty wherever it is. Then he said something like 'They haven't known liberty...' And I told him that was the greatest reason that they should and challenged him to think about someone other than himself. He just doesn't understand that it sometimes it takes our blood to dissolve and destroy tyranny. It goes back to Mill again."
Lissia smiled, "Then you recall the events you cited about original Constitutional Convention when Thomas Jefferson argued with John Adams telling him, "That the tree of liberty must be refreshed with the blood of tyrants and patriots."
"I remember it well – I thought I'd shot myself in the foot. Why do you ask?" I pushed her.
"Do you think we should be fighting wars in other lands when we aren't threatened directly?" She was worried.
"If I make a promise to you that I will help you if you get into trouble no matter what would you expect me to keep that promise?" I asked her.
"You would without question...but this is a war," she was anxious.
"I would to honor my word to you and yes it's a war – freedom can only be gained with shared sacrifice – even if it means my life..." the words were chilling – her expression was frozen as her eyes searched mine trying to understand how I arrived at that conclusion.
"Where does that come from inside you?" she wanted more.
I started slowly in the words that best define what I believe and felt, "When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
"The Declaration of Independence," she tightened her lips into a small frown and nodded, "I knew it..."
"There's one more piece of that desire that is critical and since I've fallen in love with you it has become the centerpiece of my desires, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. I want us to share in that promise and every other child or student or pairs of lovers wherever they are – especially for their Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. We can't be free unless all men are free. And it may cost my life. 'Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends'...it may come to that for me and I urgently believe that. I can't walk away from this my baby – ever. It's for us as much as it is for the people of Vietnam," I was tense and anxious and passionate. I hadn't really realized the gravity of those words until I learned that Lissia and I couldn't marry – our freedom – our liberty – our happiness was stripped from us by bigotry and fear – our nation wasn't living out its Declaration of Independence.
"Oh my sweet, noble man where did you come from? How did you get this great, good and noble heart?" she leaned against me and wrapped her beautiful arms and body up with mine. "I thought I was against this adventurous war that Johnson was taking us into but I've changed my mind."
"Johnson is doing this because of our agreement with South Vietnam and inside of that agreement he's found footings for his grandiose schemes," I spat out my words.
"What do you mean?"
"He's creating a dependency situation like the feudal system in Europe where the fiefs and serfs were dependent upon the king or the barony for everything and before long they only performed mediocre work and got addicted to what the barony or the king dropped from the table," I could taste the bitter medicine that he was foisting on the population.
"Why would he do that?"
"Power, votes, control." I explained.
"Oh my God and you think he's using us black folk to get that," she was breathless.
"Yeah. The Republicans passed the Voter Rights Act, an act he fought against since he was in Congress and later the Senate so now he needs the black population's votes to beat back the Republican candidates...so yeah I think he'd use black folk to get his political gains. He doesn't care about civil rights – he's been involved with the Democrat Party here in Texas and it's filled with bigots and klan-members," I was angry again.
"He's hoodwinking us," she sat upright. "This is slavery all over again."
I nodded, "Yes...that's what it looks like to me too. I can't prove this but logic seems to favor the prepared in this case. Rather like the carpet baggers who swindled slaves out of their forty acres of land."
"So how is he getting away with escalating the war in Vietnam with all the hawks who voted against him since he claimed Goldwater was trying to start World War three," she wondered.
"That's just it he needs those hawks to support him in 1968 – he appeases the hawks and creates his great society which is nothing more than a welfare state while the hawks are cheering on the war effort and being satisfied with fighting communists in Vietnam rather than in the streets of America. His war efforts build the Military Industrial Complex that President Eisenhower warned us about because it becomes a political tool," I smirked wryly.
"And you get caught in the middle doing the right thing...he is such an asshole," Lissia spat out. "I voted for Goldwater and will vote against Johnson again in 1968. He can go fuck himself and his welfare plantation."
"The Vietnamese people who think they are fighting for their freedom are going to get abandoned when we get 'tired' of fighting that war like the Korean War. At least the truce line at the 38th parallel is the line of demarcation between freedom and totalitarianism. Dad thinks this is going to turn bloody and nasty before it's over. He's probably right about that too," I breathed out hard.
"I love you Steven so very much. I wish it didn't have to come down to this," she acquiesced the point.
"I love you too sweet wife of mine...I wish people would just get along and stop this kind of inaneness. I'm not nor do I have a desire to be a politician. I will fight not for Mr. Johnson but for a free Vietnam with happy kids, hard working people, good schools and a healthy economy." We talked for an hour or so and finally she got me calmed down and we fell asleep in each other's arms again.
Lissia roused herself to attend to hygiene and I went into the living room to call Mom and Dad. I asked them to have a dozen red roses sent to Lissia for tomorrow with the card, "To my darling wife – I will love you forever – Steven." I thanked Mom and Dad and told them how much I loved them for recognizing Lissia as my true love. They both told me they wanted me to finally be happy and I promised them that I was beyond imagination.
Lissia came into the living room as I hung up the phone, "How's your Daddy?"
"He's doing okay. They asked about us and how we're feeling. I told them that I was happy beyond my wildest imagination," I smiled to her as she easily closed the distance between us.
Her arms slid around my neck - her lips met mine with passion and a lover's knowledge of our personal geography, our kiss lingered and was sweetly hot and provocative, as we broke our kiss her face was radiant, her smile pliant and her eyes were deep, liquid fire that ignited my heart with joy, "My beautiful Steven I am so glad we're together. You've shown me what I was missing in my life..."
"You stole my words...I didn't know us or about us or that we could be – us. It's hard to believe all that's happened – I mean look at us...like I told Mom and Dad this is beyond my imagination that I could love and be loved this way...never did I think that this could be real...Lissia you said whatever happens forever – well I'm there too," I confessed all of me to her and held her tightly for such a long while. We eventually went in and took a shower – we were going to the nursery once more before I had to leave.
The nursery folks were getting accustomed to our coming. We bought ten flats of perennials to plant all around the yard to add more depth to the landscape. Lissia couldn't believe her eyes when it all got planted. She shot a whole roll of film – 36 exposures on 35mm Kodacolor. I would eventually get to see the pictures – three months later but she was thrilled at her new 'lawn' as was I.
We were pretty domestic for a few days – she fixed dinner for Mom and Dad on Saturday - they got there just after the red roses arrived – Lissia was still crying, "Look at this," she told Mom.
Mom hugged her while I thanked Dad, "Here's $20 for the flowers Dad."
He refused it, "Son when you can make your woman this happy there's no amount of money that can be placed on the value of her happiness."
Lissia and Mom stopped hugging and Lissia came over and hugged Dad, kissing him on both cheeks, "You have done such a wonderful job with your son – I love you both so much."
"Thanks Mom," I whispered as I tried to give her the $20. She just smiled and kissed my neck.
Then Lissia turned her attention to me again, "We've been together every minute for the past few days when did you do this?"
I smiled as she held my hands, "I can't give away my secrets now can I?"
"No," she hugged me tightly, "I guess not. These are the first flowers I've ever gotten from any man."
Her admission stunned me, "I'm glad I thought of it first."
"I am too, baby, I am too. We have a lot of firsts together don't we?" She pulled back and looked into my eyes as I nodded and smiled – I could feel my face flush red as she stroked my cheek.
Lissia showed Mom and Dad around her Victorian-styled craftsman bungalow and she walked them onto the porch so they could see the 'new' landscaping. Dad smiled, "Well it looks like someone knows what he's doing."
"He does," Lissia spoke up as she tightened her grip on my hand, smiling to me. She led Mom and Dad inside and showed them pictures of the 'jungle' before I attacked it and began getting control of it.
Dad smiled, "Don't put work in front of him – it's Katie-bar-the door."
We sat down to a sumptuous meal of chicken and dumplings and all Dad could say was, "Can Momma and I live with you?" He brought a smile to Lissia's face. We talked for hours drinking tea on the side porch and telling stories about our quiet lives – they mostly told stories on me growing up while Lissia mentally recorded these moments for her replay in the quiet times when we weren't together. The day ended too soon. It was another one closer to Dad not being with us so we treasured it and drew it out as best we could...squeezing all the good out of the moment. He blessed us by being here as did Mom. We worked out the details of Monday – Mom and Dad would come to Lissia's home and we'd all leave together to take me to the ROTC Center at the University.
On Sunday we went to an Episcopal service near the Private university campus - we were inconspicuous as this was a relatively open community. We got a lot of exercise during worship with the standing up and kneeling and sitting. The service was dry as dust – the music stultified and stodgy – this wouldn't be the one. Our ride back to Lissia's home was very quiet – we were both feeling a bit maudlin and a sense of loneliness was creeping in for both of us. I didn't know what was in store for me at training – I had never been away from home for more than a week plus I'd never had a fiancé or even a fulltime girlfriend so I didn't know what was coming on our front. Lissia on the other hand would have a lot of down time and time to worry and think about things – she would need to be busy. We talked about that possibility with my parents and they promised me that they would keep Lissia busy and check up on her. The sabbatical would start in three weeks for her - she buries herself in her work – she's relentless in her research and in her preparation. But this was different – we were different now – there was so much at stake. She had sailed through her education and her teaching stints just as I had zipped through my studies and my work pretty much unscathed by the world at large. We weren't going to be so fortunate now. We offended a large part of the population because of our pairing and we had to be prepared for what that meant – that is the unknown variable in this whole calculation.
I watched Steven over the few days we spent together. He poured himself into the work around the yard – laying out larger plans and more work for when he returned. He was trying to ignore the elephant in the living room – our upcoming separation while he was away at Fort Benning Georgia. I knew there was no damn way those crackers over there would allow me to rent a room to be near him for even a weekend. I couldn't keep my anxious brain off of his leaving – he wasn't running out on me – he was doing what he was supposed to do – as he always does without fail or complaint. The Major told me that you always, always knew where to find Steven – his values and character were so pure that he always did what was right and would exhaust himself trying.
He gave me roses! No man has ever sent me flowers or so much as given me one flower. He is cagey I don't know how he did it but I suspected the Major's hand in this. His Momma and Daddy came to supper and we enjoyed them being with us. They loved my little house especially my favorite room the wraparound porch with ceiling fans. The Major admired the work Steven did on the lawn. We're proud of his hard work period. His Momma and I swapped some recipes – she took chicken and dumplings home for the Major - we had a sweet time with them. The Major got out of breath real easy so we watched him. I didn't have air conditioners so I kept the ceiling fans running. I couldn't believe how normal it felt to have dinner with Major and Mrs. Edwards – this was Fantasyland just like the one in Disney Land. I didn't know what to think I only knew I loved how they treated us – me especially - I'd of never believed it had I not been living it. We sat around talking like we had been doing this together all of our lives. It was so peaceful – I didn't know life could be like this especially growing up on a farm where the work never ended.
On Sunday we went to an Episcopal Church – the Major called 'em 'whiskeypalians.' We stood and knelt, stood and knelt for over an hour – that's enough to make anybody take to drinking. We didn't go back there – it was more about their benign neglect than any other reason. But there was more – we had drifted into that gray area of sadness that settles in on a relationship when separation is imminent – and it was imminent alright. At least the sabbatical work started in a few weeks so...I could be preoccupied as though I wouldn't worry about my baby and where he was and what he was doing. The Major and Mrs. Edwards were gonna check in on me they said – I wasn't sure how faithful they could be with the Major being sick. We'd have to see how that worked out. I expected Evie to be putting her nose back into my personal life again.
Steven and I worked out how we were gonna kiss goodbye when he left on Monday. His parents were gonna watch us like hawks so we could have our moment. This 'thing' that we had to work out pissed me off and really pissed Steven off – his righteous anger is something to behold. Do not get into his crosshairs. Our family gathering and Steven's persistent love for me didn't just make me happy it changed my way of life – I had love again. In the three days that Steven and I spent in 'our home' before he shipped out for training we made love quite a few times – it was very sacred to me and neither he nor I were willing to write about it for this chapter. We talked endlessly – opening up to each other about our fears and our ambitions and our politics. Steven shared his fears with me – that he would make a mistake that could cause someone to lose their life even though he knew that those were the perils of war. Then he told me bluntly that I was his beneficiary if anything happened and that started my long months of being terrified. I didn't care about the damned money – I loved Steven and couldn't live without him. He kept telling me that the training is dangerous because they train for war. Of course he wouldn't take a job that kept him in the rear he had to be up front but that's another story. Over the next few months I rarely got more than three hours sleep a night add to that just missing my baby and my heart was torn up.