The Classmate Who Tells Me Things by Priscilla Atkins 

On an island far away, I study for a semester with a white-haired woman who wears black polish, slender (black) clothes over a skeletal frame and, in the one extant photograph, sunglasses. “Witch,” a classmate whispers. Yes. The visiting prof is old enough for a few hairs on her chinny-chin-chins…and why is she here for the year except for the money (necessity—not greed)? She is all for my reading The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas, and I do, and am pleased. Rumor is that Witchy birthed and left an infant girl to be raised by her own mother while she went to Italy and onward, and wrote many books including a novel about the Albigensians, who did not believe in procreating. The classmate (twenty years older than me) who divulges the baby-left-behind story also confides that, in her opinion, a brilliant (and kind) male faculty member is, truth be told, the primary caregiver to his toddler son (“It’s 1987,” I thought, “What the fuck here is divulge-worthy?”). The mother/wife of Kind-Smart and son is a forensic anthropologist and flies to places like Cambodia and Vietnam to identify bones. This classmate who tells me things has auburn, jawline-length hair, two beautiful pubescent daughters and a loving husband. Auburn Jawline writes smart poems and even smarter criticism. We first meet in a class where there are subterranean communiqués afoot. At least one student’s slept with the prof. Sleeper Prof plays with his mustache. I do not like him. Long after I leave the island, I poke around and find that Auburn Jawline divorced and is teaching at one of  the prep schools—not the top one, or the other top one, but the one with a fairy tale name (“Star of the Sea,” something of that order). Weirdly, I remember visiting that school. Where I engaged with a youngish, friendly teacher with a few two-inch dark hairs curling out from her skin in a place you would not expect. Save for mountain clouds, I do not recall any specifics of the backdrop or one solitary thing we spoke of. 

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