I knew I had graduated from the University of Chicago, but now — probably years later — I was attending Yale University for an undergraduate degree. I couldn’t understand my own actions, but I had to do it. I didn’t feel as frightened of failure as I usually do when I am returning to complete the degree I already have.
Someone asked, “How many military officers have you had convicted?” What an odd question. I was sitting, stooping, or kneeling, but I sensed someone behind me. TB was there with a friend or two, and he was holding up both hands with all fingers and both thumbs spread. Before I knew it, I said, “Do you have enough fingers?” He glanced down at me in disgust at the implication. Again, I had blown it. A military lawyer? Is that what he had been? It didn’t seem likely. The number 10 seemed high if he hadn’t been, though, and I knew he’d run out of fingers. But what a strange question — who had asked it and why?
It was time for a class reunion, which involved a train trip. We stayed overnight somewhere; when I returned to my train seat, my computer (Titanium PowerBook) was still there, but the AlphaSmart NEO was missing. I couldn’t remember any of my own movements but in a moment of denial was sure that I had left it in another car and that it had not been stolen.
PS, the office manager, was noncommittal but at least did not condemn me for my foolish actions and assumptions. She moved me to the next car, which was nothing like the comfortable one I had been in. Rows of wooden seats were packed in tightly; from above it looked like a cattle car, possibly with straw on the floor. The conductor told me people chose it because the back part was a swimming pool. Later, it would be more of a pond than a pool, and most people ignored it in favor of a chlorinated resort pool that had taken over most of the rest of the car.
All of us got out at a building, perhaps a shopping complex. I was clutching a handful of thin legal-size folders and my thick wallet awkwardly; hanging onto these would give me a great deal of trouble in my wanderings. The only way I could find to get between the building’s levels were narrow, railless iron steps suspended above an abyss. I walked up two sets of them at different times, but I would have given almost anything to have let go of my dignity and crawled. On the last step to solid flooring, I tripped and for a horrifying moment or two thought I would fall.
As I walked around, I encountered people I thought I knew, like Lynn(e) P. I was confused, uncertain, and addle about whether they were from high school or college, or if they were there as friends of classmates. I didn’t meet anyone I really wanted to see.
I started to worry about missing the train as I didn’t know when it was leaving or how to get back to it. I saw what appeared to be an exodus and tried to recognize someone so I could be sure that it was safe to follow them. Suddenly, I lost the entire crowd. I was alone in the strange building with the terrifyingly tiny suspended iron steps.
I heard someone who tried to reassure me, but it was too late. My trust was no more.