A Momentous Decision by Mario V. Farina

It began in October about three years ago. I had gone to Harland directly from work and was getting ready to teach my regular evening class which began at six. As I walked through the school's library on my way to room 314, I was stopped by a cheery "hello there!"
A Momentous Decision
A Momentous Decision by Mario V. Farina
The voice had come from a young woman who was seated at one of the tables. She was about five-seven, slim, and had long brown hair that came down to the middle of her back. Not being sure that the greeting was for me, I glanced inquisitively at the woman as she spoke again. "You're Victor Martini," she said. "You don't know me, but I know you. I'll be taking a computer course from you at International in about two weeks." "Oh," I said, "that's nice." I really wasn't interested. "My name is Susan Thompson," she said. "I'm looking forward to the class." That's how it started. At the time of the story, I worked at International Communications as a data processing instructor. In the evenings, I taught computer classes at Harland Junior College in the small village of Harland in northern Vermont. In the company, I had been teaching for over fifteen years. Only employees of International Communications were permitted to take courses that I taught there. At Harland, the people came from many walks of life -- full-time students, employees of various companies in the area, retired folks, etc. Susan was obviously an evening student at Harland and also an employee of International. The evening was uneventful and I promptly forgot the unexpected encounter. The class that I was conducting met once a week. The following week I arrived at the school at about the same time and headed for room 314 in the usual way. This route required that I walk through the library. "Hello there!" It was the same voice. And the same person. I noticed that her eyes were green. "Hello," I responded. "I'll be taking your course at international in a week," she said. "Yes, I remember," I responded. "I'm afraid I've forgotten your name." "It's Susan Thompson," she reminded me. During my lecture that evening, I thought about Susan often. She was an attractive woman, I told myself, not beautiful but close to it. Why had she gone out of her way to tell me that she was going to be attending my course at International in the week? Could it be that, in some way, she found me attractive? I'm only five-six tall and was about ten pounds overweight at the time. I had never thought of myself as good looking. "But one can never tell what goes on in a woman's mind," I thought to myself. Also, I was fifty-two years old. She couldn't be very far into her thirties. She was taller than I. Something didn't seem right. Besides, why was I thinking this way? I had been married almost twenty-eight years and had three grown children. One child, a daughter, had been married for several years. The following week, I looked for Susan as I walked through the library. "Hi", I called out as I spotted her. "This week I remember your name. You're Susan Thompson and you will be taking my computer course at International beginning this Tuesday." Susan smiled. "Yes," she said. "I'm looking forward to it." After class, Susan was waiting for me at the doorway of the school. I had not expected this. "Where are you parked?" I asked. "Down the street," she replied "I'll walk with you," I said. There was a nip in the Vermont air. As we walked to our cars Susan asked, "Are you going straight home?" I replied affirmatively, and we parted. Why had she asked me that? Did she want me to suggest that we stop somewhere and have a cup of coffee? Or a drink? I drove to my home in Fairfax, just a few miles from Harland. During the next several days, I thought about Susan frequently, and began looking forward to having her attend my computer class. Tuesday arrived. This was one course that I had been looking forward to. Walking into the classroom, I looked around to see whether Susan was in the room, and indeed she was. We smiled our greetings. As the first session progressed, I found myself addressing my remarks directly to her. When I looked at Susan, she would smile back prettily. It was somewhat puzzling to me that Susan did not appear to be very interested in the course material. Also, when I gave classroom exercises, she did not do them. I asked her why she wasn't doing the work and she gave a vague answer. Nevertheless, I excepted the reason she offered without the slightest irritation. With another student, I would have felt much differently. Susan was wearing a tight white, sweater and I found that my gaze would sometimes settle upon the small, but well shaped mounds that pressed outward from the material. Maybe I imagined them but I thought I could see the outline of the nipples on her breasts. Once or twice, I wondered whether our relationship would eventually mature to the point where I would touch what lay underneath the sweater. At the end of the first day's session, Susan lingered after the other students had left. She and I engaged in some idle chitchat. Then she left. On the following day, Susan listened attentively while I lectured, but, as with the previous day, she did not do any of the exercises. "You really should be working out the problems," I told her. Susan agreed and said she would try some of the exercises soon. This was good enough for me. I didn't really care, though, whether she did the work or not. There were no grades assigned at the end of the course, and I had always felt that a student would get as much, or as little, out of an International course as the efforts that he or she put into it. Besides, I was more interested in the thin, white blouse she was wearing that had the top two buttons unfastened. At the end of the second session, I asked Susan in what direction she was going, and she replied that it was back to her building which was about half a mile from the classroom. I said that I would be walking partway in that direction, and offered to walk with her. She accepted, and we did walk together part of the way back to her building. As we were walking, Susan gave me both her home and business phone numbers. Her home number was unpublished and I felt honored to have been entrusted with it. When we parted, I walked in the direction of my mother's house. I went to see her frequently after work. Her house was about two miles away. She was elderly, and I visited to see if she needed anything. The course lasted three more days, and those days went about the same as had the first two. Susan never did try to work out any of the problems. When I questioned her about this, she said that she was getting all she wanted out of the course by simply listening. I was getting plenty too. Every day, Susan would wear something intriguing like a low-cut blouse, or short tight skirt which displayed her slim well-formed legs to good advantage. From where I stood, the view in Susan's direction was always enthralling. "How did things go at work, Hon?" Kathleen asked. It was always the same question. "Fine," I responded. It was always the same answer. This was the end of this evening's conversation concerning work. It had been a little different today, I thought. I wondered what Kathleen might think if she knew there was a new interest in my life. Somehow, I should have felt guilty about it, but didn't. I felt uncomfortable more than anything else. I felt that Kathleen's presence in my life might be a hindrance. It kept me from taking actions that might help develop my relationship with Susan. Kathleen prepared my meal as she always did. I sat in the recliner in front of the television set, as I always did, and ate with the plate in my lap in the same way as always. Tonight though, my thoughts weren't on the steak or on the television program. They were on Susan. Poetic thoughts occurred to me. I picked up a pad. Tonight, the computer notes that I usually jotted down while eating, gave way to romantic rhymes. Two of my three girls were still living at home. The three girls names were Diane, Dorothy, and Dolores -- all Ds (it had seemed like a good idea at the time). Diane was 23, Dorothy 20, and Dolores 18. The oldest girl had been married three years and lived in Milton. She didn't communicate with their mother and me very often. From time to time this evening, the girls wandered in and out of the family room. None said anything to me. On previous evenings, the absence of greetings would not have had much effect, but tonight, it bothered me a little. "Wasn't there more to life than working and watching television?" I thought. Feeling that Susan might help put some spark back in my life I decided to invite her to lunch. Monday I called her at the office. I didn't know how I was going to say it. It had been quite a while, after all, since I had asked a woman for a date. "Hello, Susan," I began. "I was sort of wondering whether you might want to go out to lunch with me someday this week." Somehow, she didn't seem shocked. Could it be that she didn't know I was married? That was possible. I had not worn a wedding ring for a couple of years. "That would be very nice," came the voice on the other end. "How does this Friday sound?" Friday sounded very good to me. I couldn't believe that I had pulled it off. Somehow, I had managed to ask a young woman for a date and she had accepted. I deemed it a major accomplishment. Friday arrived, and I put on my best suit, a blue one, and a matching tie. Whether Kathleen, who was always up as I prepared for work, wondered about this. She made no comment. During the noontime, I picked up my car at the parking lot (the black Cadillac, of course) and drove to her building. In a moment or two, Susan came out of the door looking lovely in beige. I helped her into the car. As we drove down the boulevard, Susan said, "That's a very nice suit your wearing and the tie matches perfectly. Tell me, who helps you with your clothes?" "I guess the wife does," I admitted hesitatingly. So there it was! Now she knew that I was married. Would it make any difference? My response to her question seemed to have had no immediate effect "Where shall we go for lunch?" I asked. "Anywhere is fine," she said. Somehow, it had not occurred to me during the week that it might have been a good idea to have decided ahead of time where to go -- and possibly, to have made reservations. "Normally, I drink my lunch," Susan added. This seemed a strange remark. Was this young woman a heavy drinker? I wondered. Did she want me to take her to a place where drinks were served? I was a light drinker and was not familiar with drinking places. My driving became aimless. "Would you like to go somewhere to have a drink?" I asked. "No, I was just kidding. Let's go to Sherman Park." Now that was more my speed. At least, I did know where the park was. It took only a few minutes to get there and we found a parking place next to a rail fence. I stopped the car and turned in my seat slightly so that I was facing Susan. "I'm divorced," Susan began it was an emotionless remark. "My husband and I are still very friendly." It struck me as curious that she had used the word husband instead of former husband. Normally, I listen more than I talk. Therefore, as Susan spoke, my only comments were "uh huh" now and then, or "is that so?" Susan had had a wonderful man as a husband, she told me. His name was Vernon. They had been married since she was sixteen. Susan was thirty-four now. There were two daughters -- Sheila and Teresa. Sheila was fifteen and Teresa was ten. A coincidence was the fact that Susan's birthday and that of my daughter, Dorothy, were on the same date, -- August first. One of the men that Susan had known since she was separated was named Jimmy. Susan didn't say what Jimmy's last name was. It seems that Jimmy came from a very wealthy family. As a joke, at a card game one day, Jimmy had offered to give Susan a diamond ring that had as many diamonds in it as Susan had years in her life. She had accepted. Susan showed me the ring that she wore on the ring finger of her left hand. It was gigantic with diamonds superimposed upon diamonds. The most descriptive word that I could think of to characterize it was monstrosity. I did not verbalize this description. "That was a funny kind of joke," I commented "no pun intended." "Yes, but you've got to remember that Jimmy comes from a very wealthy family. His parents own a ranch where they raise horses. Probably, to him, a ring with thirty-four diamonds on it has about the same value as five dollars would have to an ordinary person." It sounded plausible, but I didn't completely buy the story. Susan continued that she was estranged from her entire family. She said that she preferred the relationship this way since the members of her family were of a lower class that she. Besides they just could not understand the fact that Susan went with doctors, lawyers, business men of various kinds and others in the professions. I felt flattered that Susan had consented to go out with me. Could it be that she considered my status to be equal to that of those she had mentioned? I had authored some textbooks that had sold all over the world, and which had been translated in various languages. Upon reflection, I convinced myself that an author was a person with as much status as a doctor or lawyer. Susan did most of the talking; I, most of the listening. Shortly after one o'clock, we decided it was time to go back to work. About ten minutes later, both of us were back at our desks. Susan was a most unusual person, I pondered. There was much that was strange about her, and there was much that was unusual about the things that she had told me. I wasn't quite sure what to make of it all but decided that I wanted to be with her and talk to her again. That evening, after dinner, I decided to have an important chat with myself. What was I doing? I was on the track of being unfaithful to Kathleen. Was this me? I had always felt that being faithful to a wife should be a given in any marriage. This encounter with Susan had not been a good example of my keeping that conviction. I questioned why Susan had introduced herself to me the way she had. I was an instructor, and instructors should not have unprofessional relationships with students. In having gone out with Susan, I had violated this important tenet. An unfaithful relationship could only result in pain to Kathleen, my children, and my mother. What kind of person would I be, if this consequence was not important to me? I had to make a decision. The time for it was now. Too much had already occurred that should not have. The next day was a Saturday. I went into the den at home and dialed her home number. "Susan," I said, "I enjoyed my conversation with you yesterday. Last night I had a long conversation with myself, and found myself to be less than a decent human being. I don't believe I have to tell you why. From this point, our relationship, yours and mine, will be strictly as student and teacher. That would be the only way that I would be able to live with myself. I'm making this call is to tell you this." "But, . . ." She began and was silent for a long time. Finally, she asked, "Are you sure you want it this way?" "Yes." "I understand," she said. "That's the way that it will be." I had made one of the most important decisions in my life, and I never regretted it.

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