I spent my twenties, which seems like youth to me now, working as an unpolished clerical worker for a paper merchant’s. In those days they tried to define your job in terms of its function and status and “clerk” seemed correct to them and the inescapable truth to me. Nowadays, no doubt, I would be called a “Success Liaison Consultant,” or some other rubbish, but we hadn’t fully discovered the selling power of self-importance in that unpolished era.
Through lack of money, connections or social presence, my life was pretty much free of intercourse with females, though once my head lay on the pillow it filled immediately with dreams of sweet romance; and girls who identified with me as if we had a secret pact: I never played the hero, even in my dreams and my musings were not carnal but more to do with recognition, tenderness and coming home; a place with which I had little familiarity.
In the evening , sometimes and for no reason, I would attend a “Creative writing course” at the local college as a way of marking myself out as someone who sought self-improvement. There I met Maurice Le Garde, not his original name I’m sure, who eked out a living teaching ‘creative writing’ on the back of a couple of undiscovered novels. On account of his being a lecturer and a writer of sorts, he had a kind of “allure.” “mystique,” or whatever you might call it, and he was at that perfect age for creative girls, it seemed to me: somewhere in his late thirties where he could impress as the spiritually well-travelled older man but still with enough stamina to follow through on his promise, and yet not too old to unsettle, or too young and gauche to disturb that subtle beautiful women with presence and sensibility who was my obsession.
No names because I will admit none, but in my day-dream I could describe her to the final hair.
He talked a lot about “defining the moment” and could look towards the window and say, in his slow drawl with a hint of foreign accent, “Life is just a moment, and the colour of it changes with our understanding and experience” and then he would turn from the window and look towards us, or more particularly Helen who was an artistic truth-seeker in her early twenties. She had played a guest role in my dreams, I admit, but there was a sense that she played a larger role in the ennobling life of Maurice Le Garde.
On those grounds alone I developed an anger towards him which I lacked the character to express until one day, when he was going on about “Moments” and “Inner sensibility” I said, “What do you think about social progress and responsibility. That is more than a ‘moment’ surely?” I noticed with inner satisfaction that Helen turned to look at me, and I had drifted towards becoming a “Person of note” in this class at least.
As I began to celebrate this brief elevation, that disturbing sub-foreign accent cut across my thoughts saying, “After dark, when your thoughts are free of inspection, there is no social responsibility.” and Helen moved her gaze from me back to our noble teacher. It was the nearest I got to gaining her attention, and the last time I attended his class