~Meniscus Archives~
Spring 2005
Issue #7
The Mojo Issue

Issue #7 Home


A Spiritual Autobiography
Annie Rigo
Somewhere during the four years of high school, I had a strong sense inside of me that said I would be a minister one day. At first, I realized the desire of so many of my friends to talk about God and talk about problems, and just be in open conversations about it. I didn't feel any pressure to find out more about how to become a minister—I just left an opening for God's Spirit.

The Writing Instructor
Dan Berthiaume
As a forty-second birthday resolution, Ted had sworn off undergraduates. He had honored that pledge in the two years since, until he met Rachel.

Lock-less Gumuchian
Photography by Jon Heinrich
Derek Gumuchian sheds his dreds on the first day of Spring. See the step-by-step transformation as Derek reflects upon the symbolism, meaning, and motivation for the makeover.


The Writing Instructor

Dan Berthiaume
Published 3/31/05


Professor Doyle awoke to the smell of frying bacon. The odor momentarily returned him to boyhood summers at his grandfather’s cabin on Lake Sebago in Maine, his grandmother making her “greasy spoon special” at the crack of dawn before he and his grandfather went fishing for freshwater bass. But the feel of silk sheets and the framed photo of his kids from when they were young brought the professor back to the present.

Still slightly dazed, Professor Doyle patted the spot next to him on the king-sized bed. It was empty. So unless a thief kindly enough to prepare a hot breakfast before leaving had broken in, Rachel was working the frying pan. She doesn’t seem like the type of girl who cooks, thought Professor Doyle, reminding himself that he was Ted this morning.

Ted slipped into his silk robe, exited the bedroom into a small hallway and then passed through a set of saloon-style swinging doors to enter the living room. The low-hanging winter sun illuminated the room through the bay window, bathing everything in a cold, revealing light. He squinted his eyes against the sunlight to look out the window and considered the view of the pond that in the summer was surrounded by lush, green trees which became brilliant beacons of orange and gold in the autumn. The view, still impressive even when the trees were skinny and bare, had been the deciding factor in his purchase of the condo.

“Hope last night worked up an appetite,” called a high-pitched female voice from the kitchen.

“What kind of appetite?” asked Ted, bounding into the kitchen with long strides. Rachel, wearing the spare terrycloth robe Ted kept hanging by the shower, squealed and threw herself into his chest. Reflexively, Ted put his arms around her.

After a moment, Rachel pulled herself back. At six foot three, Ted was almost a foot taller than Rachel, and he tilted his head downward to fully appreciate her pretty, dark features.

“I love your kitchen,” exclaimed Rachel. She picked up a stainless steel spatula off the counter and started flipping strips of bacon sizzling in an oversized frying pan. “I love the utensils, too. I love this whole place.”

“That makes two of us,” said Ted. He imagined Rachel’s previous collegiate postcoital experiences, waking up on tiny mattresses in dormitories and fraternity houses, being escorted to the cafeteria or getting served toaster waffles in bed. Ted suddenly realized he should have told her last night she could wear his monogrammed silk robe.

“So Prof…I mean Ted, how long have you lived here?”

“About four years.”

“It’s so well-decorated,” said Rachel. “Almost like a woman’s touch.” A look of fearful embarrassment seized her face. “Oh my God, that’s not what I meant,” she gasped.

Ted chuckled. “I know what you’re trying to say. You can be all man and still be a tasteful decorator. I was in one of the jock fraternities at Dartmouth, believe it or not.”

“Really?” asked Rachel. “The frat guys here are such boneheads. When I first pledged the Sigmas, I thought meeting frat boys would be the best part. Our fraternities could use a few guys like you.” She paused and smiled. “I’ll bet you were a handsome little Ivy Leaguer.”

“What’s that about ‘were’ handsome,” Ted said, playfully grabbing Rachel’s behind. She squealed again and slipped out of his reach. Ted admired her figure shimmying beneath the bathrobe. With any luck I won’t get sick of her till finals, he thought.

As a forty-second birthday resolution, Ted had sworn off undergraduates. He had honored that pledge in the two years since, until he met Rachel. During that interlude there had been several masters and doctoral candidates, and even a divorced 37-year-old research librarian with a daughter in third grade.

Rachel was 19, a sophomore. Since the first day of spring semester Creative Writing 201, she had been giving Ted the look he had come to instantly recognize. Ted had given in after a few weeks; taking minor solace in the fact Rachel was not blonde. They had gotten things started with a discreet stroll in a suburban park. This was soon followed by their first “official” date, dinner at a prime table in one of the most highly acclaimed Italian restaurants in Boston’s North End (college kids who may have recognized them rarely ventured north of Kenmore Square).

The previous night, highlighted by a home-cooked prime rib meal at Chez Doyle, had been Rachel’s first visit to his home. Ted lived in Arlington, only a 20-minute drive from the urban campus that was spread out along Commonwealth Avenue, but far enough away to avoid curious eyes and ears.

Rachel slid four pieces of bacon onto a plate and set it on the mahogany kitchen table. “Sit,” she commanded, and placed the remaining two slices on another plate she set across from the first one. “What’s your beverage of choice this morning?”

“OJ,” said Ted. “There’s a carton on the top shelf of the fridge, in front. I also have milk and apple juice, if you want something else.” Ted stood up and removed two glasses from a hand-carved cabinet hanging over the flawlessly polished sink.

“OJ is A-OK, unless you’re talking about OJ Simpson, of course.” Rachel giggled.

“Of course,” agreed Ted, smiling momentarily.

Rachel read the juice carton. “100 percent organic, no artificial flavorings, colorings or preservatives,” she said. “No wonder you look so young.”

“That and the plastic surgery,” said Ted. He paused for dramatic effect, and Rachel stared at him blankly. He then burst out laughing to let her in on the joke and she joined him, looking relieved.

“Manly good looks like yours could only be genetic,” said Rachel, stroking Ted’s prominent jaw before pouring his glass full of juice. Remaining standing, he took a large gulp. “You would not believe how many girls on campus think you’re totally hot,” she continued. “Your kids inherited it, too. Especially your little boy. You can tell he’ll have a strong jaw like yours someday. Those are your kids in the photo in the bedroom, right?”

“I got divorced from their mother about five years ago,” said Ted. “My little boy did get a jaw like mine someday. He’s 20 now.”

“There’s a 20-year-old version of you running around?” asked Rachel. “Keep him away from me. I might have a hard time choosing between the two of you.”

“Jack is in upstate New York at Cornell, so I’m probably safe,” said Ted. “But the choice wouldn’t be hard at all. Jack is smarter and better-looking than his old man.”

“The girls must break down his door,” said Rachel, sounding slightly in awe.

“He’s had his share of female acquaintances,” said Ted. Chip off the old block, he added silently. “But he’s been with the same girl for more than two years now.” That’s where the apple falls far from the tree, thought Ted.

“Lucky girl,” said Rachel. “Your daughter is really pretty, too. I didn’t mean to overlook her. She doesn’t have your face, though.”

“Ella has a lot of her mother in her,” said Ted. A parade of memories consisting of bitter looks, sarcastic remarks, and terse phone calls which never completely left his mind quickly came to the forefront of his thoughts.

“How old is she?” asked Rachel.


“That’s a fun age for a girl,” said Rachel. “The boys finally get over those gawky growth spurts and start getting hot.”

“Very comforting news for a father,” said Ted, immediately regretting it.

“I’m sure she’s daddy’s little girl.”

“She was once. Maybe she will be again someday.” Ted visualized Ella throwing her arms around his neck, standing on her toes while he bent down so she could kiss him on the cheek, like she had on Christmas mornings as a little girl. Then the image uncomfortably shifted to Rachel, and numerous other girls not much older than Ella was now, leaning up to kiss him on his mouth and thrust their tongues between his already parted lips. He rubbed his temple to soothe a pain that was not actually there, but hurt just the same.

“Can we talk about something else?” Ted asked, breaking his reverie. “I usually don’t like to dwell on my ex-wife and kids at moments like these.”

“Fine,” said Rachel, her facial expression suddenly shifting from awe to anger. “There are probably a lot of moments like these in your life, huh?”

“What do you mean?” asked Ted. The acid from the orange juice began churning in his stomach.

“You know what I mean,” said Rachel. “Do you pick a fresh young flower every semester?”

“No, of course not,” protested Ted. Charlotte, the 37-year-old divorcee, had been his exclusive girlfriend for a summer session, fall semester, winter session, and half of a spring semester.

“But I’m not the only student who’s admired your stainless steel kitchenware.”

“There have been others,” admitted Ted. “Some were graduate students.” Unconsciously, he drew himself to his full height, squared his shoulders, and adopted a slower, deeper, speaking tone. Ted often employed this technique when a student insisted on a pursuing a topic in classroom discussion that he felt had already been covered. “I think it’s fair to say we both know I didn’t pull the wool over your innocent little co-ed eyes,” he said. “You didn’t seem too interested in discussing your short stories when you began visiting my office.”

“Neither did you.” Rachel placed her hands on her hips and lifted her head so she could look Ted directly in the eyes.

“All I’m saying is, I didn’t force or trick you into doing anything,” said Ted, maintaining eye contact. Rachel’s face showed clear signs of fear, but mixed with flashes of defiance that Ted found impressive. “You knew what was going on,” he continued. “I’ve had this type of relationship before. But it has never affected how I behave in the classroom. I don’t give an A for screwing me or an F for tossing me on my ass.”

“So now I’ve done one, you expect me to do the other?” asked Rachel.

Ted stroked his temple again. This time the pain was jabbingly real. “I don’t expect anything,” he said.

“Is that supposed to make me feel better?” retorted Rachel. The fear in her had disappeared, and indignation had taken its place, with defiance still strongly present.

Ted dropped his academic tone as unconsciously as he had assumed it. He did not realize he was shouting until several words were out of his mouth. “What are you looking for? I’m a 44-year-old divorced professor and you’re a 19-year-old sophomore. Are you going to introduce me to your parents on Family Weekend?”

“No,” said Rachel, now breathing heavily. “But I guess I thought dating a man would be more fulfilling than dating a boy. So far it’s the same bullshit. As soon as you get me into bed, you have no further expectations.”

“That’s not how it is,” protested Ted. “But I’m more than twice your age and I’ve already been married and had a family. Did you think I would be less complicated than a college kid?”

“Is that what I am to you, a kid?” asked Rachel. “Hell, your son is a year older than I am.”

“Of course not. You’re a mature, intelligent, beautiful young woman,” said Ted, remembering why he had pledged never to date anyone not old enough to have earned a college diploma.

“How come beautiful was the third characteristic you mentioned?” Rachel said, no longer looking Ted in the eye. Her hands slid off her hips and hung loosely at her sides.

“Because I saved the most important part for last,” replied Ted. Rachel let out an excited gasp and leapt toward Ted. He reached for her embrace and they initiated a long, passionate kiss. Ted began understanding, rather than remembering, why he had broken his pledge.

“Let’s stop fighting,” said Rachel when the kiss had ended. “It’s a gorgeous day. I think spring may finally be coming. We should go out and do something.”

“That sounds great,” said Ted. “Can we finish breakfast first? I’d hate to see your bacon go to waste.”

Rachel took Ted by the hand and led him back to his seat. He thought again of Ella, probably spending her Sunday studying so she could follow her older brother into an Ivy League school. Although she would never admit it, Ted was certain she wanted to follow in her father’s ivy-covered footsteps, as well.

Ted often wondered if the divorce and his subsequent absence would lead Ella to seek an older man in college, perhaps a professor, to try and reconnect with him. Did she know of his extracurricular activities with female students, both during and after his marriage to her mother? He took these possibilities seriously, but didn’t think there were any guarantees his behavior would directly affect how Ella pursued romantic relationships. After all, Rachel had said her parents were still married after 23 years, although she had made a point of the fact that her father, a physicist, was rarely home and hard to talk to.

Impulsively, Ted considered breaking it off with Rachel, then and there. He doubted he would approve of Ella being a similar situation, so it was time to stop the hypocrisy. Then Ted imagined Ella sleeping with an older man, waking up the next morning in deep admiration of his yuppie kitchen décor, and subsequently being told to leave and never return.

Ted decided it would be best to let Rachel off slow and easy, then absolutely forbid himself to date any more undergrads, grad students, or even anyone under 30. Usually, the younger girls tired of their situation with Ted after a few months and broke things off, anyway. If necessary, he could use the cabin in Maine or a made-up summer writing retreat for an excuse not to see her when the semester ended.

“What are you thinking about,” asked Rachel, halting Ted’s chain of thoughts. “Your bacon is getting cold.”

“I was just thinking about a writer’s retreat in the Berkshires I might attend this summer.”

“Sounds almost too good to be true,” said Rachel. “Would you like more juice?”

“If I have too much the acid upsets my stomach, but I don’t think a little more would hurt,” Ted responded. He raised his glass and Rachel filled it to the brim, allowing a few drops to spill onto the table. Ted grabbed a napkin and wiped the juice off the mahogany before it could sink in and leave a stain.

Dan Berthiaume


Meniscus Magazine © 2005. All material is property of respective artists.