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Of Rimbaud and the Importance of Love

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"Poetry is meaningless," Lois informs him.

Kenny leans back. "You don't understand the-"

"Brilliancy of being able to mould social commentary, biting wordplay, and sharp characterisation into non-standard format," she finishes. "You do realise that poetry used to be the standard format? Eventually, people got frustrated and learned how to craft actual novels."

"You're not going to help me write a letter of protest, are you?"

"You need to invest in a typewriter."

Sighing, he wonders if he should bring up her vehement disapproval of censorship. This isn't the precisely the same thing, but-

On the sidewalk, Professor Falconer walks by, and he fully sits up. "We have English this semester."

As soon as the words are out, he realises how he sounds, and a second later, he feels Lois's stare bore into him; it’s the one calling him an idiot without her customary neutral expression actually changing.

Never one to particularly care if he looks like the fool when it comes to her, he turn to explain.

0

Later, after class, Lois gives him a look, and he'd lay odds she's judging him.

However, all she says is, "Good luck," and briefly pinches his wrist before taking his bag and leaving the classroom.

He walks up to Professor Falconer's desk, and looking up, Professor Falconer gives him a fond look. "Kenny. Come to steal Miss Yamaguchi's papers, again?"

"I thought Lois forgot to add her name, sir. I didn't steal them."

In a sense, he had and hadn't.

He'd switched them.

At the beginning of the year, Lois had decided to write a pro-communist essay. As much as he respects her bravery, he also loves her grandmother, and so, in response, he'd found a paper she'd wrote in high school to switch it with.

Professor Falconer had caught him with the older essay in his hand, but he'd quickly come up with the explanation Lois had thought she had forgotten to put her name on the papers. After seeing the papers were in her handwriting and hadn't left the room, Professor Falconer had dryly pointed out her name, written uncharacteristically in pink ink, was present and pointedly corrected with the wrong date before dismissing him.

Lois is still probably plotting his painful death in retaliation for the C she got. 

"How can I help you, Mister Potter?"

"I was wondering, sir, if you know where I can get a copy of some of Arthur Rimbaud's works? None of the libraries around here carry them, and Lois refuses to help me write a letter of protest about this."

"An interesting choice," Professor Falconer notes with a touch of something Kenny can't identify in his voice. "I think I can find out for you."

He grins. "Thank you, sir."

With a contemplative look, Professor Falconer answers, "Anytime."

For a moment, he hesitates. "What do you think of his works, Professor?"

"There's no denying he was a genius. However, I find most of his work rather depressing. I imagine Mister Rimbaud was, underneath his libertine lifestyle, a very lonely, troubled soul."

"Isn't that common knowledge, sir?"

This causes a sharp look, and he belatedly remembers whom exactly they're talking about it.

"No, I dare say it's not,” Professor Falconer answers. “Americans are usually very careful about what is and isn't known about the personal lives of those who make a lasting impact on humanity."

"I know better than to rely on most teachers when it comes to getting the whole story," he says. "However unhealthy, it seems as if Rimbaud was at his best when he was with Verlaine."

A sigh followed by a heavy silence is Professor Falconer’s response, and a suspicion of where Professor Falconer's thoughts lie courses through along with the irritation at knowing he won’t hear the thoughts spoken out loud.

Professor Falconer once commented on the fact he doesn't often voice his thoughts to anyone but Lois. He doesn’t deny this, but the way he sees it, he's not a professor, nor does he have truly nuanced way of looking at the world, whereas, Professor Falconer clearly cares about knowledge and takes his duty of trying to teach how to gather and apply it seriously, even when it comes to those often overlooked such as Lois and the Negro and Jewish students.

"Many would say he wasn't at his best," Professor Falconer says. "If a person isn't in a healthy relationship with those they hold dear, they can never be at their best, even if they are producing their best work. I imagine, someday, you'll find the right person, and you'll be able to more fully see and understand what I mean, Kenny."

He takes note of term 'person' rather than 'woman'. "I hope so. Good afternoon, sir."

0

"He is out to corrupt his students, then," Lois declares.

"You disagree with him?”

She exhales. "A person's work is all they are. It's their one shot at truly making an impact. Professional certification for car people may sound like an oxymoron, but if someone's best talent is at fixing cars, they'd better stick to that and jettison anyone who tries to get in their way out."

He's not sure if her rant really doesn't make any sense or if he just doesn't understand the point she's trying to make. "Lee, what in the hell are you trying to say?"

"Rimbaud and Verlaine might have been terrible together, but together, they changed the world. Changing the world is more important than being happy."

Inhaling, he reflects, "I think the point is to find a way to be happy while changing the world.”

"Changing the world always involves sacrifice," she declares. "It means hard, relentless work, sweat, and usually blood. Only the mentally strong have any hope, and that's because they aren't afraid of being unhappy."

Sighing, he reaches over to tug her hair.

Lois is bitter, sarcastic, and so brave she's probably going to die horribly before she ever reaches middle age, but like their professor, she doesn't mindlessly follow the thoughts of others. He's never known of any women professors, but he thinks, if she makes it past young adulthood, she should consider a career as one. Philosophy, political science, or perhaps, ironically, ethics would suit her best.

"Professor Falconer is happy, and he's changing the world."

"He's changing your world," she corrects. "It's not the same thing."

0

During their next class, he finds a leather-bound book of Rimbaud's complete works on his desk.

Lois trails her fingertips over it. "He'll never admit to being the anonymous donor."

He smiles.