― Young-Ha Kim
It's in the quiet hours late at night when the mind is most vulnerable and it's then when I struggle with my emotions. Being betrayed is devastating but is even more insidious when you don't know the identity of your betrayer.
It usually happens when I'm sitting before the fire and a retinal circus of images oppresses me.
A parade of faces arise from the darkness , an unending queue of candidates who possibly betrayed me. I try vainly to convince myself it's obsessive, but can't resist scanning that interminable lineup of possible perpetrators.
I know this is the very torture my secret attacker intended, but the more I try to move on and get past it, I simply weaken my defences.
This is hell―my own private inferno.
I open my laptop to divert my attention and check my mail and notice a familiar name in my inbox. I click on it and read a short note from Trish Logan.
My initial response was excitement and elation―at least one former co-worker cared enough to get in touch with me. But as I scan the contents I'm instantly deflated. Its business-like tone crushes my spirit.
Apparently, I've left a few personal items in my office and Trish is merely asking if she should forward them or dispose of them. She offers to drop them by my condo since it's close to her apartment.
It's a pity gesture, at least, that's how I perceive it and I toy with the prospect of completely ignoring it. But hope springs eternal in the human breast, and it crosses my mind that this may be a pretext for Trish to reach out and contact me.
I picture her always ready with a joke or a word of encouragement and feel instant regret for even contemplating ghosting her. That's the problem with being a victim of some malign actor―you suspect everyone of harbouring hidden motives.
I write back that I appreciate her thoughtfulness and of course she can drop off the items at her convenience. Maybe it was just a polite token but any gesture of concern at this point is better than nothing.
The following day, I spend the morning shadowing Beatrice Fulton observing the way she skillfully deals with students.
There's a moment when I begin to doubt myself. I've been in the corporate world so long I'm not sure I can relate to students at all.
I can see why Dean Atkinson wanted me to be paired with Beatrice―she's incredibly competent and in command of so many academic tools I begin to fear I have nothing to offer at all.
It's a humbling experience and not at all what I naively expected.
We eat lunch in the staff lounge but I'm feeling less her associate and more an apprentice.
"I've got to confess, Ethan, I was a little intimidated when Dean Atkinson asked me to work with you. All my knowledge is theoretical and your experience is vast compared to mine. You didn't merely lead a boutique operation but a full-service provider."
I'm taken back by her remark. "Actually, I was feeling intimidated by you," I laughed, "you're so knowledgable about academic resources and various teaching methods. Maybe we can learn from each other."
"I'm a quick study," she said, a mischievous glint in her eye.
I felt my insides divide into cold and warmth, the two parts grinding on each other. This beautiful, talented woman was flirting with me and I felt awkward as an adolescent but totally flattered.
My innocence might be shattered but Beatrice could be to me what Beatrice Portinari was to Dante―both Muse and inspiration, tantamount to a saviour―a guide whom the Fates have ordained to help me put my life back together.