Babe stared at his computer screen. He had the mail open and a notification had just appeared as the mail he had begun to write had been saved in drafts. He closed the mail and returned to open the window in which were his notes about Theories of Thought. He snorted bored. The classes were very interesting and entertaining; but on arriving home it was the most boring degree in the world.
He extended his arm without looking away from the computer. He had calculated the space between him and the pack of tobacco. He took a cigar to his lips and lit it without having to pay attention to any of the gestures he was making. They were actions that had more than internalized. He looked at the bottom of the screen to check what time it was. Seven thirty in the afternoon. He returned to the beginning of his notes.
Babe had smoked two more cigars and had lost count of how many times he had read the same phrases without moving forward when he heard the door of his apartment open and close. His flatmates had just arrived and he had not studied anything. Absolutely anything. It was getting dark and he had not taken advantage of the afternoon at all.
“Skinny” Answered from the door. Babe listened how the footsteps approached his room. He wasn’t going alone. “And Janovec.” Both roommates appeared through the door frame. “What do you do? It's Friday afternoon. Leave that.”
“He went for pizzas and beers with Eugene.”
Babe snorted annoyed. He was not going to study anything that afternoon. If Julian and Eugene had gone for pizzas that meant that at some point James, Tony and Shifty would appear by the door and that more people would appear with them.
“How are going? Did you finish the homework?”
“I’m not even started. I have the title and my name.” He lowered the computer screen. “And for next week I have an exam.”
“C’mon Babe, life is beautiful. It's Friday.” Janovec brought him a beer.
“I would have to be studying History or something like Janovec.” He opened the beer slowly, in case his roommate had shaken it.
“I already told you when we met. You did not listen to me.” He threw in face in the tone of "I already told you."
“Look, Malarkey, Penkala and Muck also sign up.” Skinny informed. “I hope Julian bought enough pizza.”
Finally, when there was no more pizza and they had filled a trash bag with beer cans and the atmosphere was formed by tobacco smoke; Bill Guarnere, George Luz, Frank Perconte, Chuck Grant, Joe Toye and Eugene Roe appeared at the door. The first thing Bill did was show them the bags they brought with more alcohol.
“But we don’t have pizza for you. We've eaten it all. "Malarkey informed him.
“We've eaten already. Make room for the elderly.” Bill Guarnere made his way.
“They're talking about you, Grant.”
Babe stared at Eugene Roe. He could not look away from him. He was smiling in that characteristic way of his. Of half a side; between sincere, amusing and "they do not have remedy". He had one hand in his pockets and in the other he held a bag with more alcoholic drinks. He looked at everything in general, except him.
“Roe, come. Let's leave things in the kitchen. What do we bring you?”
Babe stared at Roe as he passed through all the people in his room to go to the kitchen. It seemed to him that Roe had looked at him out of the corner of his eye but he was not sure. If he could, he would ask one of his, but he couldn’t. The relationship he and Eugene Roe had had for a while had been totally secret.
Without any of them noticing, the hours went by. There were more and more cans in garbage bags and less in the fridge. A part of that they had raised the level and they had left the beer and passed to the combined one. Now was the gin-tonic turn. The ashtrays emptied faster and faster. The smell of weed mixed with tobacco. They had pushed the cards aside for a while. Chuck Grant explained stories of when he was "young", as he called it.
“We've run out of ice.” Muck shouted from the kitchen. “Volunteers to go buy more ice. No so many at the same time.” He pulled his head from the kitchen to try to pressure his friends and that someone moved.
“I'm going.” Roe got up, extinguishing the cigar in the ashtray.
“Will you let Roe go alone? You do not deserve that Roe is going to buy you ice.” Malarkey came out of the kitchen with his glass full. G mixed the drinks using the index finger. Everyone knew who had finished the ice.
“I go with you.” Babe got up.
They went down in silence. They left the building in silence. There was nobody in the streets. They advanced in silence. Babe once looked at Roe out of the corner of his eye. He smoked. They talked to ask if with a bag there would be more than enough or better two. They ended up buying two. When they returned they also did it in silence.
The night lengthened, although for them it was short. Bill Guarnere, Eugene Roe, George Luz and Cuck Grant were the first to leave claiming that they were getting older for these things. The four shared a flat. Malarkey, Muck, Penkala and Shifty followed them. They also shared a floor. Frank Perconte and Joe Toye. The last to leave were Eugene, James, Hashey and Tony.
In spite of having thrown all the bottles and cans that were empty in the garbage bags overnight; the floor was still a complete disaster. The first faint rays of sunlight peeked out when they were alone at home. They decided it was a good time to go to sleep and that they would clean up tomorrow.
Tomorrow was not Saturday. Julian, Skinny and Janovec took the opportunity to sleep throughout the day. Babe was only sleeping during the morning and until mid-afternoon. He had a job to finish by Sunday, rather to begin with. At night Eugene, James, Hashey and Tony returned. They did what they did best. Play cards. But unlike last night, Babe went to sleep about three in the morning; He wanted to finish the job on Sunday morning. The rest of his roommates went to sleep about half past four.
Tomorrow was Sunday. While Babe finished the work, the rest of his roommates organized to clean it absolutely everything that was visible. And mainly, because the table that they used to eat and was hidden under a mountain of shit. In the afternoon, literally, they did absolutely nothing.
With Monday they returned the early mornings and the races. The rush to have fallen asleep and not wanting to be late to class early in the morning. Going back because they left something and finish arriving late to class. Babe would not have minded being late to class that Monday, or every Monday of the second semester.
When Babe arrived to class he did not look if there was a place in the front rows. He went directly to the middle of the class. Julian arrived a few minutes later than him. Ten minutes later, the class began.
Babe could recognize the deep voice that spoke anywhere. He knew it perfectly and also the person that belonged to. It was Eugene Roe.
“It does not seem incredible to you that on Friday he was having beers with us and that on Thursday he will suspend us in the exam.” Julian whispered to Babe. Babe chuckled under his nose and nodded. Babe did not look up from his notes, kept pointing every word that Eugene Roe said. “He should approve us, friends help each other.”
“Who told you that they are our friends. They may only come for free beer.” Whispered Babe. He smiled with complicity at Julian.
“Do you write what he said before?” He took the sheet from Babe. “It sure enters in the exam.”
Eugene Roe had not stopped talking. He was a teacher who managed to keep the attention of all his students put in his words and that only the scribbling of the pens on the sheets of paper or the pressing of the keys of the computer was heard. Sometimes he had to ask them to stop writing and to listen to him, that they did not need to learn it. Eugene Roe's classes were like an apnoea. A catch of air and keep it until the bell rings. They were afraid to blink and miss something.
“Remember that if you have any questions you can write me an email and that what we have given today in class also enter on the exam. Some of you have asked me if the class of tomorrow we can dedicate to review all. Come with the doubts written, I will not explain everything again. See you tomorrow.”
When Eugene Roe began to turn around, and the students were sure he was not going to explain anything else, they started to collect all their things to go to the next class. Some student, even with the notes in hand, approached his teacher to solve doubts that had been pointed out during those two hours of class.
“Let’s go, Babe”
“I need to ask him something. I missed half of the class because of you.”
“Why? You’ll not pass the exam. Nobody passes with Roe, and you know it” Laughed Julian remembering the words of students who were repeating the subject.
Babe cursed his friend, smiling. He put on his jacket and waited for the students in front of him to finish solving all his doubts. That took more than five minutes.
“Heffron, it's something fast. I have class.”
“No, it's not something fast.”
“Come at two to my office.” Roe was collecting his things, looked up to see if Babe would confirm if he was coming or not and returned to look down.
“Professor.” Another student approached. “Tomorrow we will practice some case. You said that in the exam there would be a practical part.
“Yes. Any other question writes me an email.” Without saying anything else, and as he could, he left the class avoiding some students who were still there.
At two o'clock, after finishing all the classes that morning, Babe went to Eugene Roe's office. He knocked on the door, he heard voices inside, they seemed to be having a lively and fun conversation. He heard laughter. When he did not receive a response, he worried that they had not heard him. Knocked again.
“Come in.” He heard Roe's voice give him permission to enter.
Babe opened the door slowly. Inside, he found Bill Guarnere and George Luz picking up their things to leave.
“He looks like a respectable professor, right?” Bill Guarnere patted Babe's arm confidently.
“Until the day his students discover that he skipped most of their classes playing cards at the bar.” Luz teased, winked at Babe.
“You could ask the chefs, they're still working there, it's only been three years since he graduated.” They kept laughing. “We'll see you later, Roe. Babe.”
Eugene shook his head amused as his friends left his office. Both he and Babe waited until the door had closed to look at each other.
“Sit down, Heffron.”
“Why do you never call me by my name?” Babe sat down.
“Sorry?” Eugene looked at him surprised at that question.
“You always call me Heffron.”
“I think this is not a conversation to have here. I have more students to see and I really want to go home.”
“Yes, I'm sorry. Sometimes I find it difficult to differentiate when we are in the University and when not.” Babe ignored Eugene's annoyed expression at that comment. He took out his notes in which he had written down doubts to solve and questions he had and put them on the table.
“Where do you want to start.” He decided that the best he could do was ignore Babe's misplaced comments and focus on the reason of the meeting.
Babe asked him some of the questions he had about the history of theories of human behaviour. Eugene answered them each and every one of them, was entertained in the parts that cost Babe the most to understand and came to make schemes and drawings to make it easier to understand. The problem was that Babe was dumbfounded listening to him and seeing how he enjoyed explaining and teaching.
“Okay, I got it. Or I think so.” Murmured Babe looking at the last scheme that Eugene had drawn him. “I think it will not take you long to correct my exam, I will not pass.”
“Any other question?” Roe half smiled until he shook his head slightly. He did not think it was the most polite thing in the world, but he needed to look at what time it was. He really wanted to go home and nap.
“Can we meet tonight? They will all leave.” He added before Roe could say anything. He had learned to know all the reactions of Eugene Roe and was going to complain or find fault.
“It's not a good idea.”
“If you want me to pass, I need help.”
“It still does not seem like a good idea.”
“You always tell me that the university is not a place to talk, I have things to say.” Babe complained. He had not been able to say his since they had broken up.
“We are mixing things.”
“No, we can do both.”
“I don’t know, Heffron.”
Babe zipped up his backpack and left the office without giving him a chance to Eugene to reproach. He knew that if he stayed to argue with Eugene it would end up being a resounding no on his part, if he didn’t give him the opportunity to say he would not go, he would go. He left the door open, there was a classmate waiting to enter Eugene's office. He smiled kindly and then went to the door and asked his teacher if she could enter. Eugene was waiting for the elevator when he saw that the door closed behind her.