I went for drinks with my professor. He was interesting, in a boorish sort of way. His office was no bigger than a closet, and in his plywood cabinets, he had great books, stuffed, every which way, with notes, unceremoniously stuck between the gold pages.
He poured us ginger ales, mixed with hard liquor. If I was a female, I might’ve been tempted to think Dr. Halifax put something in my drink, due to his aura of perversion. One gets this way from too much female companionship or too little—I suspected Halifax had too little, but I didn’t want to make him self-conscious, so I didn’t say anything.
What Halifax had was an unarticulated desire—beyond the quest for knowledge. Most people who search for this, blow their brains out, but Halifax hadn’t yet and that’s what drew me to him. He had that twitch, like suicide could descend on him, at any moment, like Tourette’s, and he would see a frog, and say…
Well, no need to be profane.
“Dr. Halifax, why do you teach in a university?”
“To hear myself talk—why else?”
“Isn’t that a waste?”
“Yes. I’ve read more books than I care to read—and they all point to the same garbage that doesn’t explain the garbage.”
“That we are here for a reason. I can’t identify one, outside of the absurd.”
“And yet, there are men who do great things.”
“Yes—this is true—We call them outliers, but they’re still within the range of probabilities.”
“It’s impossible to remove yourself from statistics.”
“Not quite.” Halifax pulled out his gun. “I don’t do it because I like to eat ice cream.”
“Besides death—what would allow someone to stand on the outside?”
“To become, not quite human.”
“You mean, like a spiritual being.”
“No—more like a magician. The magician is a man, who transcends death.”
“How does he do that?”
“Through language—He writes his name into history and becomes immortal. Perhaps, immortality lies beyond words, but I haven’t figured that one out yet.”
“What is a man?”
“What is a woman?”
“A pain in the neck.”
“What would you do if you could live forever?”
“Eat more ice cream. I’m going to Baskin Robbins. We can continue our intellectual conversation over 31 flavors.”
“Maybe words cloud the simplicity of life,” I said.
“You’re wiser than you look.”