Thursday dawned bright and clear, an act of God which I took to be somewhat ironic, given the lack of clarity of my own thoughts. I had not slept well and, now that I was as fully awake as I could manage, I found my mind to be over-full with thoughts and remembrances of what had happened in the past week or so, reflections and recollections which did not gift me with any measurable degree of reassurance.
Like Milton's Lucifer, I had somehow fallen from grace, and my fall continued unabated.
Throughout my career, a career that I had considered to be marked by an aloof professionalism, I had conducted myself in such a manner as to be considered one of the few teaching fellows who was both free of the sin of committing of any improper misdemeanour with one of his students, and also free of even the hint of a suggestion thereof. Most of my fellows were less fortunate, academic gossip being what it was, academic temptation being an annually reinvigorated opportunity, and the resultant commission or suggestion of impropriety a frankly tedious cliché.
I had left academia with a unblemished record, and I had somehow considered to undo almost the whole of that tapestry of reputation and inclination in less than two months. In the course of a scant few weeks I had allowed myself to become embroiled in an increasingly complex web of relationships with my newly acquired students, relationships whose consequences and ramifications were spiralling out of all control, at least any control which I might have, and whose continuing evolution and metamorphoses were far in excess of my capacity for accurate and reliable prediction, my frustratingly libidinous and onanistic imagination notwithstanding.
Were I a younger man I would, perhaps, bemoan how unfair life was to have dealt me such a hand of cards, but, to continue the metaphor, I neither played cards nor gambled nor yet believed in fate, luck, or any of the one hundred and one faces which humanity gives to the caprices of our lives. I may have been naïve in my first meeting or two with Trudi, but thereafter I had nothing to offer in my defence save my vanity and that addiction that middle aged males have to the belief that someone we are still capable of being found attractive by women who are clearly and vastly younger than ourselves. I had not yet invested my savings in denim and an E-type jaguar, but perhaps it were merely a matter of the passage of more time before I surrendered myself to the inevitable decline into clichéd pathos.
Taking my second coffee of the day with me into the library, I sat down in my leather armchair, took a moment to inhale its reassuring aroma, and set to considering the situation I was embroiled in.
In inverse chronological order, I first turned my attention upon Miss MacQuoid. In her, I considered, was someone whose girlish playfulness might yet somehow be an interesting counterpoint to that of Miss Maclean in that where she was limited by her youth and lack of life's experiences, not to mention exposure to those of a similar inclination to herself who might inspire or encourage her to dare more, in Miss MacQuoid I felt a detected a curious tension between what adulthood said should not be done, and what her own inclinations said should. Hence her showing me the pictures of herself in her former line of work, something which, aesthetically pleasing as it may have been and even common as it might have been as a means of approaching a prospective photographer, Miss MacQuoid must have understood to be beyond the borders of normal behaviour, especially when meeting with someone for the first time. Consequently, she cannot have done otherwise than to have acted with knowing the likely interpretation of her actions, yet she persisted in acting as she did, eschewing propriety, to my own satisfaction not seeking some narcissistic validation of her beauty from me, but simply with no attachment to societal rules which did not serve her and whose breaking she pre-determined as not likely to cause either offence or any other kind of problem. Her approach, then, was a playfulness with what people consider to be 'proper' which, though a different proposition from Miss Maclean's girlish playfulness, was not altogether beyond comparison.
I sipped my coffee, still warm, and moved on to consider Miss Oksana. Though she had been both an intellectually and also an aesthetically engaging addition to the seminars she had attended, with her fellow classmates, in my office, I had but little to base any real misgivings upon. Her studiousness and dedication to obtaining as good a degree as possible spoken of a sobriety that contrasted her much with my other students. However, there was the manner in which she seemed to consider the notion of transacting sex for grades to be both accepted and acceptable, a somewhat chilling cost-benefit analysis that I felt lacked a certain insight into potential emotional consequences at some later point in her life, knowing as I did how much the young of her age consider themselves to be so long-lived as to be practically immortal from their perspective. Moreover, I knew enough of her position to know her to be struggling financially and wondered, not entirely without vanity, if she might seek to 'save' her monies by 'paying' for her lessons in less conventional currency. I knew myself to be taking her monies as a token in order to motivate her, but might, perhaps, the chances of Miss Oksana taking me into her bed act, instead, as a motivation for me, inspiring me to teach her to the limits of my capabilities – something I prided myself that I would do regardless – so that I might find her company in bed almost as regular as her lessons with me might be. I might ask whereof my professionalism, but whereof it if I were teaching her to my limits? Surely that should be the only consideration, especially given that I taught not for academic validation or approval, but for the far more personal but none the less important combination of diversion, habit, and tobacco monies. Was I talking myself into accepting her offer, were it to be made again? And if it were not, why did I find that curiously ... disappointing?
I decided I needed a moment to clear my head and so, after clearing my coffee cup into the kitchen, I filled my pipe with a good packing of latakia, and retired to my study, hoping that surrounding myself with books of great worth might inspire a little less of an over-heated imagination.
As I lay back in my seat and settled into a moment of perfect comfort, almost unbidden, my mind turned next to the quandary that was none other than Miss Sherrod. In her quest to experience as quickly as possible whatever it was she imagined she needed to experience of life as an adult in order to write about adult issues, she had, under some degree of coaxing from Miss Maclean, taken it upon herself to first send me explicit yet also charming images of various of the more intimate parts of her young body, and had then dared herself into exposing her vulva to me at the climax of our first lesson. In this itself she was both promising and delivering as much self-exposure as did Miss Maclean, a matter which I felt could not be ignored for the fact that her nude body was an enticement in and of itself, but which also led down the path I was already taking with Miss Maclean, namely exposing myself to greater and increasing personal risk should any of their activities come to light. Where this gave me greater potential concern was how Miss Sherrod was intent upon creating her literary works in such a way as to be derived from her personal experiences, and I found myself wondering how well she was able to separate event from person so as to give sufficient distance from her writing. Were she, to take a trite and obvious example, to write a piece featuring an older man and a younger woman or, even more damning, a seduction between teacher and pupil, I could see no way in which I would not be implicated. On this alone I felt I would need to have a discussion with Miss Sherrod. What was yet more concerning was the sheer drive and determination Miss Sherrod was showing in seeking to become a playwright, risking parental disapproval with all that might entail so as to be in a position to be able to follow her dream. If the approval or disapproval of her parents were not sufficient to temper her, then what hope had I to act as some kind of brake on her teenage enthusiasm. Whilst I might, and certainly would seek, to trade upon my professional credentials as a way of seeking to gain her attention and thence her respect for my opinions, I remained unconvinced that this, or anything else, might dissuade Miss Sherrod from going where she felt her muse to be taking her. All I could do, for now and until I had a better idea of what to do and how to achieve it, was to pray that that muse was not carrying me into the arms of 'Big Jock' and a life sentence as 'posh candy' in some Victorian institution of Her Majesty's Pleasure.
Having sufficiently shaken myself, there remained, of course, Miss Maclean.
.... There is more of this story ...