“When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” So goes the old Zen koan. More accurately in my experience would be, “When the teacher is ready to go home, a student will appear.”
I have my keys in my hand and my bookbag over my shoulder, just read to flip off the lights in my office when Mara steps into the doorway.
“Going home?” she says. Mara. From Tennessee. Complexion as milky-white as a bite of Jonathan apple.
“Trying. Whatcha need?”
“I have a dilemma.” Mara and I go back a few years. She’s a sixth year senior and has taken everything I’ve taught.
“A dilemma which would be….”
“I’m late. You know – late late.”
Click, whir. Brain making the connection to what a 23-year-old college senior means by “late late.”
“Oh, that kind of late. I get it.” I step back into the office and shut the door behind us. But I don’t sit down. It’s nearly 6.
“The one time my boyfriend and I didn’t use anything.”
“Well, that does increase the odds. Have you done a test?”
“That’s what I need…I kinda sorta have a problem. I don’t have any cash and if I ask my roommate, she'll blab it all over the Theta house. If I charge it, the bill goes to my parents and I’m afraid….”
“Say no more. All those questions. I gotcha. Want me to buy the test for you?”
“Would you? I’ll pay you back tomorrow, I promise.”
“Don’t worry. Let’s go.” We head for my car and zip up to the nearest pharmacy. Mara waits outside on the sidewalk while I plunk down 19 bucks on an EPT home pregnancy kit. It’s the first time I’ve ever bought one. (I am neither Catholic nor careless.)
I drop Mara and the box containing her future back at her car in the student lot. All I can think to say is, “Good luck!”
The next day I’m standing at the Coke machine in the hall as Mara reaches the top step from the first floor. She sidles up close, opens her palm revealing 19 dollars in crumpled bills. She presses the money toward me and I take it. “Everything’s OK. Not...you know,” she says. “See you later!”