1. Chện

"Thunder repeated: the image of shock"

I Ching, Hexagram 51

Oxford, 7th October 2003

If i was talking rather than writing, I would say I am speechless. Yet, what happened today, demands an entry in my diary after all the years of silence . Hopefully this time round I'll have something worth the time and effort.

It was my first day back at college.

As soon as we arrived, all the students in the faculty were summoned to the JCR. That in itself was slightly unusual, but what happened next was... well, one shock after another!

Dr Maula was already on the podium, waiting for us and looking more solemn than ever. "It is with profound regret that I have to inform you that, sadly, Dr. Tanner passed away suddenly during the last week of the holidays." He informed us.

I couldn't restrain a sob and I felt the tears rise to my eyes while an audible gasp and several noises expressing sadness escaped a number of students. Steve and Mark standing by my sides, held my arms as if in common agreement.

All of us had been very fond of Dr Tanner and the sudden piece of news was a real blow, especially for me I think, as we had grown quite close even in that very odd and restrained way academics tend to relate to their students. But after all I was by far the oldest: in the class and… I'm afraid I still have my little wily ways with men.

I felt a bit shaky, but I nearly collapsed at Dr. Maula's next piece of news:

"It is, however, my pleasure to introduce you to your new Tutor for Thermal and Quantum Physics and Energy studies, Dr. David Mayer, a former student of this very College, researcher at the University's Department of Physics and one of the most brilliant minds currently living in England. I also have to thank…"

The end of Dr Maula's words, pompous as usual, struggling for grandeur that he could never attain whatever he did, faded away under the deafening beating of my heart as I saw David climbing the podium, looking shy and flustered, but walking with his usual lightness and grace. I had often thought, although I never confessed it to anyone that he actually didn't walk. He floated.

He looked so tall, so handsome, so out of reach... in the midst of all the lightning and thunder shaking my core, I fluttered like a dormant butterfly suddenly awaken by a warm spring day.

'At last!' something deep in me cried, full of both joy and sheer terror.

I had been so sure I would meet him again… but not like this! Not like this….

My mind was flying in all directions, contemplating the possible startling consequences of what I was hearing. He would most probably end being… my personal tutor!

Should I run away? Should I leave the course? No way! Not again! It had been enough to have dropped out when I was 19. I had barely managed to get into Oxford again at the tender age of 38. However, I had not only managed to stay on the course in spite of the many obstacles; I had excelled in my first year. There was not a chance in hell I was going to give up!

I took a deep breath to clear my thoughts further, but the decision had been made. I would stick to my career and to my determination to be the best, David or not. I would have to stay cool and objective. After all, -I reflected, - I knew nothing about this David. He could be so different… a different person altogether. Hopefully I was a very different person to that stupid girl that lived with him for 11 years!

God! What if he had changed for the worse? Anyway he might have forgotten me completely or feel very displeased at the prospect of seeing me again…. He would have very good reasons for that! The way I used to treat him! I wouldn't have put up for a minute with someone treating me the way I treated him. He was too good for his own good... and annoyingly meek!

It is difficult to live with a saint, more so if you feel you are the devil. Probably it was just as difficult for him to live with me as it has been for me to live with the memory of who I used to be. I've had to do that for the last 7 years after the rude awakening following David's abandonment.

I suppose no one should feel such disgust at her past or present self, but I still do whenever I remember that person I used to be. Someone I can hardly r elate to. A person I still can't love.

Perhaps that's the reason why David has appeared in my life again. He is the reminder of all the worst aspects of my personality. I'm sure that is the main challenge I still need to face in my quest for love: to love myself past and present.

This feels like a new serendipitous encounter. A living proof that that something that brought us together 20 years ago, has repeated the trick. I just hope this time round we are not thermodynamically determined like most couples I've seen; like David and I were. Like all my past relationships: condemned to go round and round the cycle of hot meets cold, cold warms up, hot cools down then both achieve the lukewarm temperature of boredom. The end. There must be a solution.... a different way. A different ending.