These last four installments of the series told me they’d prefer to be presented together.
You were the fourth reason I went to Emerson. The first three were purely academic, and I honestly didn’t know you would be there until after I already got in. Plus they say college is where you find yourself, and part of finding myself was finding you.
You were the fifth student of mine that reminded me of a woman I met while backpacking in Southeast Asia years ago. But you reminded me of her the most. It wasn’t just your appearance, I think it was also the way you answered my questions the same way she would-with her own question at the end. You also seemed to have the same pattern of freckles on your chin. But the way you pulled at your ear when you were taking notes? That reminded me of me.
Your class was the sixth one I took on Eastern philosophy. I think you figured out who I could be when I used the phrase “carpe noctem” to explain the importance of balance in whatever culture we were discussing that day. It is because you are the one that taught it to my mother outside a hostel in Phuket. She describes that night as the night Latin was resurrected from the dead. She always tells this story when she’s making chai tea with bourbon, and it is always deep into the night.
One day, I found you in the seventh row of the classroom wearing my t-shirt.
And I instantly returned to a night with who I now knew was your mother. We had met at the ice machine on the second floor of a dirty little hostel in Phuket. She needed ice for her bourbon and I needed ice for my tongue from burning it on a gulp of chai tea. She had noticed the cup in my hand and motioned to it with her eyes before saying, “I’ll share if you do, looks like you need some of this…and I definitely need some of that.”
For 31 days straight we drank chai tea and bourbon through three countries together, until the night she went to the bathroom and never came back. The note she taped to the bathroom mirror only said, “Oliver-part of you will always be with me (I wasn’t kidding about stealing your high school baseball tee). Carpe noctem.”
I stopped you on your way out, “Olivia…that shirt-”
“It was my father’s,” you said.