Thursday, May 2006, U Penn Campus, Philly
She was on all fours as her hands worked the rich soil, and her rear end, clad in tight, green cotton chinos, seemed to be trying to wave at me as she inched her way down the flower bed directly across the lawn from my bench.
I was sitting in one of my favorite spots on campus, a small green space shoehorned between Brown Hall, home to the Philosophy Department and my book lined office, and the newer and more regal Kennedy Building, home of the now suddenly fashionable Mathematics & Computer Department.
It was one of many parks and gardens spread across our fifty acre campus, a campus set in the heart of our large, bustling city, but a tree lined campus that once entered seemed to transport you to a better place.
It was early May and I had just finished my 9-11 am Thursday morning, summer session philosophy seminar, and had strolled down to this little corner to read my paper in the warm spring sunlight. I hadn't noticed her at first, hadn't seen her arrival as I read, so that when I looked up all I saw was her perfectly formed derriere.
Over the next half hour I followed her progress even as a parade of students dropped by to say hello or to ask some question about something I'd taught that morning. My students knew I was often to be found here and over time they had learned I welcomed their visits.
She finally stood up and turned just as the last of my students had wandered off, and she quickly glanced over at me when she heard the gasp escape from my mouth.
Christ, she was just dressed in old boots, green chinos and soiled white t-shirt, but... I had known she had a great rear, hell, I'd been avidly watching it for a half hour, but this... a Madonna... a goddess...
She was carrying two flats of flowers, moving towards the little bed just to right of my bench, her full, firm, high, proud, luscious, perfect... breasssssts... dancing under the thin cotton, stretching the fibers in ways no designer could have planned for, a happy smile on her face...
"Hi," she seemed to sing, "You must be someone very important. They don't even leave you alone when you're sitting in the garden reading your newspaper."
"Not really," I finally stammered, my eyes flicking constantly over her perfection, amazed she had even noticed me.
"Are you a professor or something?"
"Guilty," I answered. "An old warhorse living out his last days in academia, trying to pass on a little of his..." I started pompously, but then stopped in mid sentence when she sat down next to me, unable to continue while under her frank stare, captivated by her beauty.
"You don't look that old," she teased, "I was watching you while all those pretty girls came up and talked to you."
"You were watching me," I stammered and then admitted, "I was watching you... but you kept your back to me"
"My big bum," she interrupted, a complaint in her voice. "Everyone says I have a big bum. You think so too?"
"Absolutely no criticism was implied young lady," I said as I thought to myself, 'are there really morons on this planet who've told this angel she has an overly large rear end?', and then added aloud, "Your derriere is perfection itself miss."
She couldn't be much more then eighteen I saw now, with an hourglass figure that even her drab gardening clothes couldn't hide. There was a ripeness to every curve of her body, a lush voluptuousness she could have only recently grown into. Her skin glowed with vitality, with a freshness that simply overwhelmed the viewer. And there was a musky sexiness to her that produced a cascade of testosterone flowing to every nerve end in my body.
"Is the University now hiring sixteen year old angels to tend her gardens," I asked innocently, "hoping perhaps that the flowers produced will reflect their planter's incredible beauty?"
"I'm eighteen!" she answered with a teen's outrage. "I work for Privano Brothers Landscaping; they have the contract for all the Universities parks and gardens. I just started with them last week," she added as she stood, her breasts suddenly arching toward me as she stretched her shoulders back languidly before bending to pick up one of the boxes of flowers and moving toward the bed.
"It's just a summer job, I'm a student," she began before noticing me pick up the other flat of flowers. "You don't have to do that sir."
"My pleasure Miss... ?"
"Miss Caravaggio... Rose Caravaggio," she said grinning.
"You're aptly named Miss Caravaggio. A gardener named Rose who is more alluring than any flower she'll ever plant. Would you like some help with the rest of them," I asked pointing to the piles of flats waiting across the lawn.
"No, I have only time for these before lunch."
She talked as she planted the immature shoots in the ground, explaining how she was attending the local community college, training to become a landscape architect. "Oh I know, it's not like here, it's not Penn, not a real University, but its hard Professor. You have to know botany, there's millions of different species you know. And soil, and fertilizers, and weather, and drainage and construction and... what? Don't you believe me?"
"I can't think of any better thing in the world to do with your life Rose," I said, and meant every word of it.
Suddenly serious, with the optimism that only the young possess, she went on, "Some day I want to design gardens Professor. Country gardens and city gardens. Flower gardens and vegetable gardens. Gardens in the south and gardens..."
She was beaming as she spoke, and there was a new glow showing on her already radiant skin. "What times lunch?" I interrupted.
"Oh, twelve," she answered as she quickly glanced at her watch. "Gosh, I better go. We only get forty-five minutes; the boss goes crazy if anyone's late."
"Would you have lunch with me?"
"I usually just get a pizza at the little place over there," she said pointing to a student hang out just across the street from the campus.
"Excellent! One large all dressed on me."
"I also have a proposition to make you."
"I have a garden," I started when we finally had got our pizza and drinks, and had settled at one of the outdoor tables next to the restaurant.
"Yes, you know, one of those places you were talking about."
"Where? Here in the city?"
"Yes. Unfortunately it's been neglected; I've let it go for the last year and a half. It needs a lot of work, it needs someone like you. Someone to do a complete evaluation, someone able to redesign it for the future, bring it back to life."
She told me later she thought I was talking about some little backyard plot, that she thought I was looking for some cheap labor. "I quite busy now Professor," was her tepid response.
I didn't press, but instead gently probed, trying to find out as much about her as I could. I quickly realized she was hungry for talk, that once started...
"I'm from Peckville; it's a small town, just north of Scranton. I'm an only child...
"My parents wanted me to be a nurse. Or a teacher. But I always wanted to work with plants...
"Daddy's a landscaper... mows lawns really... fertilizes... moves snow in winter...
"The school here has the best program in the country...
"It's expensive but...
"I have to work nights, the tuition, the rent, food... Mom and Dad don't have a lot, they try to help but...
"I waitress nights, sometimes work as a barmaid...
"I've gotta find a new place to live before the end of the month, I can't afford my apartment in this area anymore. Rents are so high...
"I'm going to try to find a room in somebody's house... probably farther away but...
"My boss is a jerk, he treats me, Christ they all treat me like crap...
"Just because I'm a girl they think...
"They make crude jokes, touch me, pretend it was an accident. Golly, who do they think they're fooling Professor..."
Her conversation burst out staccato-like between bites of pizza. I finally interrupted and asked, "But who's the lucky guy Rose?"
"Your incredibly fortunate boyfriend."
"Haaaah! Guys!" she said with scorn. "Don't ask about men, I've had my fill. I thought he was a nice guy; we went out for three months this year. One of yours professor," she said sarcastically. "Penn. In 'PRE MED' he used to boast. What an asshole," she spat out, using a curse word for the first time since we'd been talking.
"Not good?" I ventured with a grimace.
"Not good Professor," she laughed, her bubbling personality impossible to keep down for long. "Are you married?"
"I was," I answered.
"Are you divorced?" But seeing my hesitation added, "Don't mind me, I'm nosy."
"No, no, it's okay. She died, last year... Cancer," I finally added.
"I'm sorry," she rushed to say, but then added, "So I guess we're both single."
Our time was soon up, but before I let her leave I gave her my card, insisted again I was serious about the garden, promised I'd visit her again when I saw her around the campus. She hesitantly said she'd call but...
I didn't see or hear from her over the next six days, and unable to get her out of my mind had decided I'd have to do some detective work. I knew with her name, where she was going to school and with the name of her employer she'd be easy to find. But I'd hoped she'd call first.
Wednesday afternoon around five-thirty the phone finally rang.
"Yes. Is that Miss Caravaggio? Rosie?"
"My prayers to the God of plant life have been answered then."
.... There is more of this story ...