Chapter 3

Posted: January 2, 2012 in Letters to my Mother by Rebecca Heath

Blaine Hall, Room B102
University of Washington, Seattle
Sept.14, 1956

Dear Mother and Daddy,

You’re never going to believe this – Dr. Rosenau invited me to go sailing tomorrow with him and his research assistant, Frank!! The day he interviewed me I saw a picture of a sailboat on his desk; it’s called Sturm- something or other (German, didn’t quite get it), but I had no idea it was his. Gotta run – I’m off to the Ave to pick up a sailing magazine and post this letter. Will give you an update next week.
Love, Kate
Despite Dr. Rosenau’s forecast of the day before, the sky was gray Saturday morning when Frank and I arrived at the marina. We found Dr. Rosenau kneeling on the dock, bending over an outboard motor and holding a grease gun in his hand. In the berth beside him was a white sailboat with the name Sturmvogel painted on the stern.
Dr. Rosenau glanced up when he heard us approach. “Good morning. Sorry the weather’s so gloomy, but the overcast is supposed to burn off before noon; by then we should have some wind, too. Meanwhile we’re going to need mechanical assistance to get out of the marina. Would you give me a hand with this, Frank?” He looked at me and did a double take; my thick, waist-length hair, usually coiled primly behind my head, was hanging loose.

“Your hair…” he stammered, “for a moment I didn’t recognize you.”

Together the two men wrestled the outboard onto a bracket at the boat’s stern, and when they’d clamped the motor in place, I looked up at Dr. Rosenau.
“Permission to come aboard, sir?”
“Permission granted.” He held out his hand and helped me into the cockpit. “I see you took me seriously when I told you to wear heavy clothes,” he said, looking at the extra sweaters and stadium blanket I was carrying. “I hope you won’t need all those. You can put them below, anywhere they can’t roll onto the cabin sole once we’re underway. In the forward cabin would be best.”

Needing no second invitation, I started down the short ladder.

“Not that way. Always turn around, face the cockpit, and grab the handholds when you go below. Here at the dock it doesn’t matter, but once we’re out on the water you could take a nasty tumble.”

Sturmvogel’s interior was warm and cheerful, with varnished teak cabinets, gleaming brass lanterns, and a woody aroma. There were bunks on either side of the cabin, a drop-leaf table down the middle, and a two long shelves crammed with paperback books. A small sink and a two-burner stove comprised the galley, and an ice chest under the ladder served as a refrigerator. The forward cabin was designed for sleeping, but Dr. Rosenau had converted the space into a storage area; the bunks held an assortment of nautical gear: life jackets, sails in bags, ropes, and a couple of anchors. I wedged my extra clothes between them and went back on deck.

“Your boat is beautiful! I always thought small boats would be spartan inside, but Sturmvogel is as cozy as a home.”

Dr. Rosenau smiled. “I’m glad you approve; she is my home as often as I can get away.”

“I hope you know what you’re letting yourself in for when you go sailing with David,” Frank cautioned.

“What?”

“A summer of caulking, painting and varnishing. You don’t think this trip comes without strings attached, do you? David exacts a tribute from his passengers. How else do you suppose he keeps the boat looking so shipshape?”
“Frank’s exaggerating as usual. What he just described no doubt violates any number of university rules. I pay going wages to anyone who wants to help.”
“I’m sure I’d love working on a boat.”

Frank groaned. “Let me hear you say that in June after you’ve spent three days sanding Sturmvogel’s keel and a couple more weeks varnishing her spars.”

“I’m probably safe because I don’t plan to be here then.”

“You’re going back to Utah?” Dr. Rosenau asked.

“Oh, I hope not, at least not for the entire summer. My best friend’s a graduate student in Romance Languages and we’ve applied to a Quaker organization to spend a couple of months at one of their work camps in Mexico. We haven’t heard anything definite, but since we both speak Spanish we’re hoping they’ll accept us.”

Dr. Rosenau yanked on the starting cord, bringing the outboard to life with a vigorous putt-putt-putt. Frank cast off the mooring line, jumped aboard, and we headed out of the marina into Shilshole Bay.

An unbroken layer of clouds extended across the sky in a leaden sheet, merging in the distance with the water and blurring the horizon. The whole world was shrouded in one vast gray cocoon. The three of us sat silently in the cockpit, absorbed in our thoughts, and occasionally Dr. Rosenau looked up at the sky.

We’d been motoring for half an hour, the bow slapping gently against a slight chop, when Dr. Rosenau pointed to an area about a quarter of a mile distant. “Do you see the water over there, the dark patch with the ripples on the surface? That’s one of the signs of wind a sailor looks for. We’ll head in that direction. It’s time to hoist the sails; Frank, could you take the tiller?” Dr. Rosenau turned to me. “Would you like to help?”

“Yes! But you’ll have to tell me what to do.”

Frank moved over to the tiller and I followed Dr. Rosenau on to the deck. He removed the strips of cloth that secured the mainsail to the boom, fastened the halyard, and inserted the winch handle. “Your job is to turn this handle – clockwise – while I tail, or take in on the halyard as you grind”. I did as he said and the Dacron mainsail glided up the mast, crackling and shaking as it filled. From the cockpit, Frank trimmed the mainsheet and Sturmvogel heeled gently as the breeze increased.

“Now the jib. Bring her into the wind, Frank,” Dr. Rosenau called, his words blown to leeward by the gusts. I followed him to the bow and we untied the jib, which billowed up and out over the lifelines until Frank brought the sail under control. He stopped the motor and tilted the shaft out of the water. I had grown so accustomed to the drone of the outboard that the sudden silence was overwhelming; even the foghorns had ceased their moaning, and the only sound was the wind in the rigging. I stood near the mast, holding on to the lifelines, and breathed deeply, a big smile on my face, while under my feet Sturmvogel flew across the water, leaving behind a small, swirling wake. I felt like a Cheshire cat. I couldn’t stop smiling; a feeling of total exhilaration welled up inside me and overflowed.

“A penny for your thoughts.”

“Oh, I was just thinking of a line from Swinburne – ‘for the foam-flowers endure when the rose-blossoms wither…’ Do you ever see things in the foam, like flowers or people’s faces?”

Dr. Rosenau nodded. “I remember the first time I was on the water. I was a little boy and we were crossing the estuary of the La Plata River from Buenos Aires, an overnight trip by steamer. I must have stood at the rail for an hour looking at the foam below, watching the shapes take form and dissolve. They seemed to me like herds of white horses. I even composed a poem about the foam horses, but I never wrote it down. Look over there and you can make them out galloping on the crests of the waves. See how their tails stream out behind them?”

Dr. Rosenau was still standing beside me. “Do you know where you are?”

“I think I must be in heaven, but I guess we’re really in Puget Sound.”

He smiled. “That’s Vashon Island down there, with Tacoma just beyond it,” he said, pointing. “Seattle’s over there, of course; there’s Bainbridge Island and, to the north, though they’re not visible from here, the San Juan Islands.”

“And the ocean?”

“Yes, but it’s a long way off.”

We stood side-by-side for several minutes more without talking. Now and then Dr. Rosenau glanced up at the sails.

“I can’t thank you enough for inviting me,” I said at last, hardly daring to intrude on his silence. “I often imagine how something’s going to be, which is a bad habit because I’m frequently disappointed. But this is ever so much better than anything I could have dreamed.”

Dr. Rosenau looked down at me with the warm smile that belied the aloofness of his face in repose. “I’m glad you’re enjoying the sailing; of course the weather’s not always like this. In fact we’re incredibly lucky today; everything has come together. Often when I go out it’s raining or there’s no wind or there’s too much wind, or it’s too cold or it’s too something. But I go anyway, regardless of the conditions. Harnessing the wind is a challenge.” He scanned the horizon and fell silent.

“Do you usually sail alone or with a crew?”

“Sometimes Frank comes with me. He’s turned into a good sailor, but usually I sail alone. Sturmvogel’s rigged so I can handle her by myself. Inviting people to go sailing is difficult in this climate. If you ask them on a Wednesday, when the sun’s shining, then Saturday is sure to be rainy. Also, it’s hard to tell if someone’s going to enjoy bobbing around on a small boat for five or six hours with nothing to do; some people are simply bored stiff.”

“Well, I’m not bored and I’m sure I wouldn’t mind the rain or a storm or anything. In fact, I think I would love being at sea in a storm. Can you go very far in a boat like this?”

“Around the world, if that’s far enough.” Dr. Rosenau noticed my expression of surprise. “Sturmvogel was built in Norway and her first owner single handed her across the Atlantic to Newport. Last summer I sailed her to Alaska myself, for three months. Seaworthiness is more a function of strong construction than size. And the skill of the helmsman.”

“You sailed to Alaska – alone?” I asked incredulously.

“Yes, I went alone.” He looked out at the water again and we stood silently for several more minutes.

“Have you ever been in San Francisco?” he asked.

“I spent about four months there with my mother during the war when Daddy was overseas, and then a few days in 1948 when we returned from Hawaii.”

“San Francisco Bay is where I learned to sail. I was your age, an undergraduate at Berkeley. I joined the university sailing club out of curiosity, and I haven’t been off the water since. San Francisco Bay is a glorious place to sail; the wind blows hard from spring through autumn and the ocean’s right at your doorstep.”

“I don’t have very happy memories of San Francisco. My mother and I lived in a hotel just off Union Square during the war while we waited for my father to finish his tour of duty in the Pacific. She was out every night and I was terribly lonely.” Dr. Rosenau looked at me with curiosity, but said nothing. “Several years later, when we came back from Hawaii, our plane landed at the Alameda Naval Air Station and I remember passing through a place called Treasure Island. I was disappointed because I imagined the island would be something straight out of Robert Louis Stevenson, and it turned out to be just another naval base. Have you seen it?”

“Yes, several times, though T.I. didn’t exist when I was a student at Cal. It’s an artificial island, built for a World’s Fair.”

A large cabin cruiser bore down on us at high speed, its deck crowded with waving passengers who pressed forward to stare at us as the boat changed course for a closer inspection.

“Hold on!” Dr. Rosenau shouted, “We’re going to get a huge wake.” I watched eagerly as a breaking crest of frothing water surged toward us, followed by a series of troughs and waves. When the wake began to rock the boat, Dr. Rosenau put his arm around my shoulder and pulled me down beside him on the cabin top. Sturmvogel rolled heavily, flinging her boom from side to side, and as she rocked, Dr. Rosenau’s thigh touched mine. For the first time in my life I felt a tingle of desire; hoping my face didn’t mirror my emotions, I turned away from him and fixed my gaze on the bow. Then the wake passed beneath us and sped on, tumbling a fleet of smaller boats in its plunge toward shore.

“Look at the sailors, see the funny sailors in their little wooden boat, see the sailors get mad and curse in Spanish.” Dr. Rosenau made a wry face as he watched the powerboat receding in the distance.

“Are wakes like that dangerous?” I asked, wiping the salt spray from my lips.

“We can’t capsize, if that’s what you mean. Sturmvogel has five thousand pounds of lead ballast to keep her upright. A small boat could be swamped and overturned, though, especially if it took the wave on the beam – the side – rather than at an angle to the bow. I hope they got their money’s worth.” Dr. Rosenau removed his arm from my shoulder.

Once out of the turbulent water, Sturmvogel’s sails filled again and she heeled gently. I stood up and braced myself against the rigging, delighting in the sting of the wind on my cheeks and the tug of my hair as it whirled around my head.

“Your hair’s so lovely when you leave it loose. Why don’t you wear it that way all the time?”

“Because it makes me look like a little girl. I can’t bear to cut it, but I haven’t worn my hair down since I was in high school.”

“How old are you, if you don’t mind my asking?”

“Nineteen.”

“Only nineteen? Because you’re a junior, I thought you were older. Did you skip a year in school?”

“When I entered kindergarten I already knew how to read, so the principal put me in first grade. Then when I was eight they put me in the fifth. Skipping me was a terrible mistake; I was small for my age and morbidly shy. Despite my test scores, I was an abysmal student. Two years don’t make any difference to an adult, but when you’re a child, they matter a lot. I hated school.”

“No, two years don’t make much difference.” I thought he stressed the word two, but perhaps I was mistaken.

Dr. Rosenau took a strand of my hair in his hand. “I should have told you to wear a scarf. You’ll never get a comb through your hair again if you let it toss around like this. Did you bring anything with you to cover your head?”

“I forgot; anyway, I like the way my hair feels when the wind blows through it.”

“You’re not going to like the way it looks, though. Here, let me braid it for you.”

We returned to the cockpit, where I crouched down in the well, out of the wind, while Dr. Rosenau tried to part my tangled hair. “It’s already too late; we’ll just have to shave your head,” he joked, tugging on the mass of snarls. After several minutes of patient effort and more than one “ouch” from me, Dr. Rosenau finally succeeded in separating three skeins, which he plaited into one thick braid; he pulled a piece of quarter-inch rope from his pocket and tied a bow at the end.

“There,” he said, surveying the braid. “You’ll still have your work cut out for you tonight, but at least the job won’t be completely hopeless.”

I thanked him and resumed my seat on the low side of the cockpit.

“Since you won’t be around next summer to give me a hand with the varnishing, how about doing some work now; would you like to steer?”

I looked at him apprehensively. “I’ve never steered a boat before. I don’t even know how to drive a car. What happens if I do something wrong?”

“Absolutely nothing. We’re heading into the wind, so if you make a mistake the worst that can happen is the sails will start flapping and the boat will come to a halt.”

“That’s all?”

“That’s all. Going downwind is another matter. You need to pay more attention to avoid an accidental jibe, but I’ll show you how to jibe some other time.”

“I’m not very mechanical,” I warned him. “My father tried to teach me to drive when I was sixteen and I was so worried I’d engage the clutch wrong and wreck the engine that I never mastered it. Daddy doesn’t have much patience with slow learners.”

“Sailing is easier than driving a car, or at least the rudiments of sailing are simple. And I promise to keep my temper,” he added with a smile. “Come here, and I’ll show you.”

Frank and I exchanged places and he gave me the tiller; I took the helm gingerly, as if he’d passed me a live grenade, and Dr. Rosenau reached across my legs, putting his hand on mine.

“A boat will always go in the direction opposite to the way the tiller is turned, so if you move it to the left,” he said, giving my hand a slight shove, “the bow of the boat will swing to the right, and vice-versa.” We practiced this maneuver several times.

“You can’t sail a boat any closer than about 45 degrees on either side of the wind, and if you do, the sails will flap, or luff in sailing parlance, and the boat will stop. If you want to bring the boat closer to the wind, you push the tiller toward the sails and to move away from the wind you pull the tiller away from the sails. Watch the tell-tales – those pieces of yarn tied on the shrouds – those wires supporting the mast. They show which way the wind’s blowing; try to steer as close to the wind as possible without luffing.” He removed his hand from mine.

At first I overcompensated for every puff of wind and Sturmvogel gyrated erratically from one side to the other, but gradually I got the feel of the helm, and a glance back at our wake showed me we were sailing in a straight line – more or less.

“Now it’s my turn.” We traded places. I looked at the speed indicator and noted with chagrin that the boat picked up a knot when Dr. Rosenau took the tiller. He had an instinctive feel for Sturmvogel, an ear tuned to the swish of the water passing along the hull, to the rustle of the sails, to the sound of the wind. A slight hardening of the mainsheet here, a loosening of the jib there, and Sturmvogel responded like a racehorse in the hands of a skillful jockey.

Dr. Rosenau glanced up at the sun. “Is anyone besides me hungry? I think it’s time for lunch. Kate, can I ask you to get the sandwiches and make coffee? You’ll find the sandwiches in the ice chest under the ladder and there are two thermos bottles of hot water in the locker beneath the sink. Take whatever else you need from the cupboard. I have instant coffee, tea, bouillon, and cocoa, plus a bag of cookies and the cups.”

As I was opening the ice chest, he called down, “Don’t fill the cups too high or they’ll spill. And bring up the loaf of stale bread, will you; it’s for the seagulls.”

“How do you manage to cook when you’re sailing by yourself?” I asked, passing the food up to Frank.

“Cooking’s a real problem. The stove’s so temperamental that I don’t dare take my eyes off the burners for long. My diet last summer was oatmeal for breakfast and whatever I could catch for dinner and canned stew when nothing better turned up.”

A wildly improbable idea occurred to me and I wondered if Norma would be too disappointed if I didn’t go to Mexico with her. “Are you planning to go sailing next summer?”

Dr. Rosenau shook his head. “Unfortunately I’m scheduled to teach. I may go to Hawaii in the summer of ’58 though.”

I prepared more coffee and the three of us relaxed in the cockpit, munching cookies and warming our hands on the sides of the steaming mugs. I broke the bread into small pieces and tossed them to a couple of passing seagulls. Within minutes a hundred or more birds surrounded us, all wheeling and crying above our heads, contending noisily for the scraps I threw them. When the bread was gone, the crowd dispersed gradually until only one seagull remained soaring behind us, riding the eddies from the mainsail, his bright eyes following my every movement.

The conversation turned to Spain, to my schooling in the convent, to Spanish literature and culture. “I’ve never been in Spain,” Dr. Rosenau remarked, but one of the things I like most about the Spaniards I’ve met is their love of music. Many years ago, when I graduated from high school, I spent the summer before university backpacking around South America with a friend. We were on a train one morning in Peru, going from Cuzco to Machu Picchu, and in the same car with us was a group of Spanish tourists from Burgos. One of them started singing folk songs and a couple of others began to dance flamenco in the aisle; before you could say olé, the whole car was singing, and we kept right on all the way to the ruins. That train ride is one of my happiest memories of the trip.”

“Did you learn Spanish folksongs in school?”

“A few, but my mother taught me most of the songs I know.”

“Do you know Con las abejas or De los cuatro muleros?”

“Of course! Do you?” In a moment the two of us were singing Spanish folksongs at the tops of our lungs. For once I didn’t think how my parents claimed I couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket, and I didn’t worry what Dr. Rosenau thought, either. I sang because the sun was shining, because Sturmvogel was dancing over the water, and because I was ecstatically happy; I wore my joy on my sleeve.

“Frank, you’re the real singer here. Give us something from opera – a German opera, none of that sentimental Italian stuff.”

Frank thought for a moment. “Okay. Here’s the tenor’s act one aria from Der Rosenkavalier.” Dr. Rosenau started to laugh, but I didn’t get the joke. As if waiting for his cue, Frank began to sing – in Italian. His lovely voice carried over the water, and the other boats sailed closer to enjoy the unexpected concert.

When the song was finished, Dr. Rosenau remarked, almost to himself and with a hint of sarcasm, “Well, that was appropriate.” I didn’t understand what he meant.

“Frank, you have such a beautiful voice!” I exclaimed. “You’re just like the boatman in the ‘Romance del Conde Arnaldos.’” He looked at me with raised eyebrows. “It’s a fifteenth century Spanish ballad; Count Arnaldos meets a sailor singing a song which is so magical that the fish rise to the surface of the sea to listen, the birds perch in the rigging and even the wind and water are stilled.”

“No wonder the wind’s died,” Dr. Rosenau joked, looking up at the sails. “Enough out of you, Frank, or we’ll have to swim home.”

“Is there more to the poem?”

“The count begs the sailor to teach him the song, but the man refuses.”

Dr. Rosenau interrupted, “Yo no digo esta canción sino a quien conmigo va.”

“That’s it! Do you know it too?”

Dr. Rosenau nodded. “I know the ballad by heart; we seem to have a similar taste in literature.”

“I think I can figure that out from Italian,” Frank interjected. “Something about only telling the song to a person who goes with him?”

“Yes, that’s right. Do you know Italian?”

“I should. Italian’s the only language I could speak until I was fifteen. I was born in Calabria, the toe of Italy, the dirt-poor part of Italy. I’ve got an uncle who came to the States first, in the 30’s. He tried to get my dad to emigrate, but by the time he made up his mind, the war started and we had to wait another seven years. We finally got here in ‘46.”

Despite Dr. Rosenau’s warning about the wind, Frank sang a few more songs in Italian and the three of us belted out “Funiculì, Funiculà,” together, in English, Spanish and Italian, fairly shouting the chorus until we were hoarse from laughter and singing.

We headed back to Seattle late in the afternoon, just as the first lights were starting to blink from the shore. I fixed hot chocolate for everyone and put on a couple more sweaters, for the temperature was falling along with the wind. As we neared the city, a swiftly moving bank of clouds overtook the sun and blotted it out, signaling the end of the afternoon as surely as the ringing down of a curtain marks the end of a play. No one wanted to linger; the magic was gone.

Back at the marina, I helped Dr. Rosenau furl the mainsail and remove the jib from the forestay. After the three of us had folded the jib on the dock and put it in a sailbag, Dr. Rosenau lifted the bag over his shoulder and turned to me. “Kate, I’d take you home myself, but I have an engagement at six, so I’ve asked Frank to give you a ride. I hope that’s all right with you.”

Down below he lit a couple of kerosene lamps whose light cast a flickering orange glow over the cushions and woodwork. I gathered my things from the forward cabin, wondering if I would ever sail on Sturmvogel again, and went back on deck where Dr. Rosenau was coiling lines in the cockpit.

“I want to thank you for a perfectly wonderful day.” I held out my hand. “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed the sail.”

“Thank you for coming. It was a perfect day, wasn’t it?” Dr. Rosenau’s eyes engaged mine and I managed to return his smile. He kept my hand in his as though unaware he should be shaking it and saying goodbye.
Frank held open the door to his small Fiat and I climbed in. I didn’t feel like talking; I wanted to be alone, to hug the delicious memory of the day’s sail to myself, to relive every conversation, every smile. I cast around for something to talk about, a subject to sustain us until we reached Blaine Hall.

“Do you have a Fiat because it’s an Italian car?”

“To tell the truth, I think German cars are better. I used to room with the guy who owned this one, and when he moved to Texas he sold it to me cheap. Do you know what ‘Fiat’ stands for? ”

“What?”

“Fix It Again, Tony!”

“Have you ever been back to Italy since you were a child?”

“Nope. I’d like to visit the tourist’s Italy, Rome, Venice, Pompeii, Florence, all those places. I suppose you toured Italy when you were in Europe.”

“I went with my parents, but only for a week. What food! I’d love to return now that I’m older, especially to Venice.”

“Geez, you’ve probably seen more of Italy than I have. You know where I’ve been? My own town and Naples, where we got on the ship for America. I’m like one of those guys you read about in New York who’s never gone across the East River. What time do you have to be back?”

“At the residence hall? They serve dinner until seven.”

“We’ve already drunk enough coffee to float a battleship, but let’s stop somewhere for one more cup. Not a drive-in, though. I want to get inside some place where it’s warm. Mickey Mouse’s heater doesn’t work.”
“Mickey Mouse?”

“The car. This is a Fiat 500; in Italy they’re called Topolinos, which is Italian for Mickey Mouse.” He shivered. “I should’ve brought extra clothes; I’m frozen stiff.”
“I have another sweater in here,” I said, rummaging around in my backpack. “Would you like to put it on?”

Frank looked askance at the pink mohair sweater I held up.

“No thanks. Great color, but it’s not my size. Anyway, we’ve arrived.” He pointed to a small café.

We sat down in a booth; the waitress brought us a couple of menus and left the table.

“I’d like to invite you to join me for dinner,” Frank began with embarrassment, “but…”

“That’s okay. I wasn’t expecting you to. My best friend’s a teaching assistant, so I realize your life isn’t exactly affluent. Besides, I’ve eaten so many cookies this afternoon that I’m stuffed.”

Frank shot me a grateful glance; he ordered a bowl of soup for himself and two cups of coffee. The waitress returned with the soup and bent over slightly to place the bowl in front of him. She was young and full-breasted, wearing a uniform so tight that her buttons were pulled askew, and Frank ogled her until I thought his eyeballs would fall out.

“Monumental,” he exclaimed after she left the table. “She reminds me of a nurse I met once when I was in the hospital.”

“Do tell. A friend?”

“Not exactly. I mean I didn’t really know her. I was recovering from an appendectomy a few years ago and this nurse came around to massage my back or change the sheets or some damn thing. She was built, I mean she was stacked.” Frank gestured with his hands. “Well, anyway, I had an erection right in front of her. I couldn’t help it, you know. She said ‘none of that,’ and snapped her fingers on my penis like this.” He snapped his finger hard against the salt shaker. Jesus, did that hurt!”

I was speechless with embarrassment and Frank noticed my discomfort.

“Sorry, I guess I shouldn’t have told you that story.”

“You don’t need to apologize; I’m just not used to hearing a man talk about his genitals. To tell the truth, it’s a refreshing change. People are usually so careful of their language around me. Someone will mention a woman’s boobs and then say as an aside, ‘that’s breasts to you Kate’. Like I’m five years old and don’t understand what the word means.” I made a face and Frank laughed.

“Do you sail with Dr. Rosenau often?” I asked, trying to change the subject.

“Once a month or so; sometimes we just go to the boat to discuss work. I’m not as keen on sailing as he is. I mean I like it, but no one could be as passionate about sailing as David is. Today I think he was planning to invite you first and then he asked me to come as a chaperone.”

“A chaperone! What do you mean?”

“David probably thinks you’re the kind of girl who won’t go out with a married man unless someone else is along.” He looked at me archly. “Are you?”

I barely heard what Frank said. A sudden chill went through me as it had in the afternoon when the sun passed behind the clouds. Of course I’d wondered if Dr. Rosenau was married; when had a day gone by that I hadn’t fretted over this question a hundred times? His sailing alone, the trip to Alaska, his friendliness toward me, none of these suggested he had a wife. I dropped my head to my hands.

Frank stared at me with astonishment. “Oh, God, I’ve really put my foot in it, haven’t I? I mean you didn’t know? He never told you?”

I shook my head. “Well, he doesn’t owe me his life’s story, does he? After all, I’m only his typist. What’s he supposed to say, ‘here’s this week’s manuscript and, by the way, I’m married’?”
For once, Frank didn’t offer a rejoinder.
“It’s a funny thing about your being a chaperone though,” I continued. “I thought perhaps he invited the two of us so we could get better acquainted.”

“David a matchmaker? Hardly. I’m engaged to be married; he knows that.”

“Does he have any children?”

“Two.”

“How old?”

“He’s got a couple of teenage kids, a boy eighteen and a girl sixteen. Something like that. Or maybe it’s the other way around.”

“What’s she like?”

“His daughter?”

“No, his wife.”

Frank considered his answer for a moment. “I’ve only seen her a few times and David never discusses his family. She’s about his age, tall, sort of matronly …”

“Attractive?”

Frank shrugged. “Not bad.” He cupped his hands in front of his chest suggestively. “Mrs. Rosenau’s what I’d call the clubwoman type; she’s involved in the faculty wives’ affairs, goes to meetings, plays bridge, all those kinds of activities. She’s really impressed with David, I can tell you. She never refers to him by his first name; it’s ‘Dr. Rosenau’ this and ‘Dr. Rosenau’ that. David’s a Phi Beta Kappa, which is something he never mentions, but she wears his key around her neck on a chain. It’s a wonder she doesn’t stick the thing through her nasal septum.”

“Does she ever go sailing with him?”

“David told me once, rather bitterly, the only time she’s been near the boat in ten years was the day she christened it. I gather his children don’t care for sailing either. They’re not a very close family.” He gave a sarcastic laugh. “That’s probably an understatement.”

“Why do you think he married her if they have so little in common?”

“God only knows and hell will freeze over before David tells me.” Frank shrugged again. “Maybe he got her pregnant and did the honorable thing.” He put down his coffee cup and looked at me earnestly.

“Kate, I realize this isn’t any of my business, but you shouldn’t keep on going out with David.”

“What do you mean going out with David’? I don’t even call him David. There’s never been a single word between us I’d be ashamed to have the whole world hear.”

My voice began to quiver. I was tired, upset, and close to tears, but Frank mistook my outburst for anger.

“Now don’t get mad. I’m not accusing you of anything, but it’s obvious you’re crazy about him and he’s sure paying more attention to you than he does to any other girl. It’s an impossible situation. Why don’t you end your relationship right now before you get hurt? Let him find someone else to do the typing. I’m a Catholic and I believe adultery is morally wrong, but I’m not going to preach religion at you, just common sense.”

“Adultery!” I sputtered. Now I was getting angry. “Frank, I barely know him. And what about Dr. Rosenau – I can’t refer to him as David – what makes you think he’s interested in me?”

“Nothing specific. I can’t put my finger on it; call it a premonition. He’s a lot different around you. Happier.”

“What’s so sinful about being happy? Is he another Dr. Jacobs?”

“No, he’s not another Dr. Jacobs. For one thing, David keeps his pants zipped. To tell the truth, I’ve hardly seen him look twice at a woman – until you, that is. David’s kind of a cold fish until you get to know him, and even after two years I’ll be damned if I understand him. He’s so self-contained; it’s hard to imagine him needing anyone or anything. You know what I mean? David’s just aloof from everything; he’s on another planet.”

“I hear you, but I don’t agree; he strikes me as a rather lonely man.” I suddenly remembered what I wanted to ask him. “Frank, who’s Helen?”

“Helen who?”

“I don’t know her last name. Dr. Rosenau said I reminded him of her, remember, the day we met?”

“Oh, that Helen. She was a grad student here a couple of years ago; she moved back east shortly after I came, so I hardly knew her. David liked her a lot.”

“What do you mean by a lot?”

“Not what you think I mean. Listen, we’re a small department. You blow your nose and everyone hears it. If anything was going on between them I’d have known, believe me. She was married and had a kid. According to the rumors, she had some marital problems and David tried to help her out.” Something about Frank’s explanation didn’t entirely convince me, but I let the subject drop.

Frank finished his coffee and drove me back to the residence hall. Neither of us mentioned Dr. Rosenau for the rest of the trip.

“I’ll say goodnight here,” I said getting out of his car. “Thanks a lot for driving me home. I can make it to the dorm by myself,” I added hastily as Frank started to open his door. “I’d really prefer to be alone; in fact I plan to skip dinner and go straight to bed.”

“Wait a minute, Kate. Another thing, suppose you and David have an affair. Sooner or later it’ll come to an end, and who’s going to be interested in you then? You’ll be used goods. You’re a lovely girl now, but if you and he … well, what decent man would want to marry you?”

Frank’s concern was genuine, but his words struck me as hilarious and I started to laugh. “I’m sorry Frank, I know you mean well, but you sound so hopelessly Italian. You’d make a great older brother. Goodnight.”

My act was all bravado. Inside I was heartsick, disappointed with Dr. Rosenau and disgusted with myself. Surely my feelings were obvious to him – Frank had said as much. Why didn’t he have the decency to tell me the truth? And what about me? How could I be counting the days until next Friday knowing he had a wife and children? Had I become so selfish that I could remember his smile and the touch of his hand without a twinge of guilt? I knew I should take Frank’s advice; I also knew I wasn’t going to.

I met Norma on the way to my room.

“I’ve been waiting for you,” she said. “Change your clothes and let’s go to dinner. Yikes your hair! How was the sailing?”

“It was … oh, Norma, it’s a long story. I was planning to go right to bed, but maybe I’ll eat after all. I need someone to talk to, someone sensible.”

After dinner we carried our coffee to a window seat in a small alcove overlooking the garden. Since it was Saturday night, most of the girls were out for the evening and in their absence the living room, with its drab rugs and even drabber furniture, looked gloomier than usual; it had started to rain.

I told Norma everything and, except for a nod or a “yes, go on,” she didn’t interrupt.

“Well, what’s your opinion?” I asked her at last.

“I think your friend Frank is worrying prematurely. Let’s say Dr. Rosenau is attracted to you – and I’m not convinced that’s the case – if he ever asks you for a date you’ll run so fast you’ll be in Canada before he even finishes the sentence.”

“Why do you say that?”

“It’s part of a pattern. You’ve told me about your crushes. You’re attracted to older men precisely because they’re inaccessible, like a teenager mooning over a movie star. A girl like that doesn’t pay attention to the real, live boy next door who might actually ask her out; then she’d be confronted with a situation she can’t handle. Fantasizing about a movie star – or a college professor – is safer.”

“I thought girls were attracted to older men because of their relationships with their fathers; the father is too weak, or the girl is trying to find a father substitute, or something of the sort.”
Norma laughed. “That was last year’s theory. Seriously though, isn’t there some truth in what I’m saying?”
I thought back on my few infatuations. Yes, it was true; I’d never been interested in boys my own age. Although I always told myself their immaturity bored me, in fact I was afraid. I remembered Tom, a handsome naval pilot stationed in Turkey and married to my mother’s best friend. I was thirteen, awkward and painfully shy. He gave me his fossil collection when he realized how much it interested me, visited me in school in Spain a few times and brought me souvenirs from his flights overseas. I recorded all our conversations, noted every scrap of biographical data which came my way, and wrote everything down in a padlocked diary I kept under my pillow. I worshiped Tom for three years, and when my father was transferred back to the United States I thought my heart would break.
Then there was Dr. Jensen, a brilliant anthropologist, who occupied my thoughts during my freshman year. He, at least, was divorced, but Dr. Jensen’s interest in me was purely professional.
“You know what really gets me? I’ll probably be going to his office every Friday from now until June. And I’ll just knock myself out with those damn articles; I’ll be typing and retyping until I go blind, and he’ll tell me what a wonderful job I’m doing and maybe, just maybe, he’ll invite me out for coffee occasionally when he doesn’t have anything better to do. Then he’ll go home to his beautiful wife and his beautiful children and he won’t give me another thought until the following Friday. Maybe he’s amused to have this faithful little puppy at his beck and call. ‘Roll over, Kate,’ and I roll over. ‘Speak Kate,’ and I bark. What won’t I do for a handful of dog biscuits? Maybe he gets some kind of sadistic joy out of leading me on; maybe he’s going through male menopause and I’m soothing his ego. That’s what’s driving me crazy – I just wish I knew what’s going on inside his head.” I stopped and looked at Norma. “Am I making a mountain out of a molehill?”
“It’s hard to say since I’ve never met your Dr. Rosenau. Let’s examine the evidence: first of all, he doesn’t sound like the type to get involved with a student, and Frank said the same thing himself. So he took you and Frank sailing. Big deal! Has he asked you out or hinted that the two of you should see each other alone? No. Has he touched you inappropriately? Not that you’ve mentioned to me. You know how it is when you’re infatuated with someone; you start reading things into a relationship that aren’t there. Remember what Freud said: ‘sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.’ Rosenau’s probably just a nice guy who enjoys taking his students sailing. So what if he didn’t mention his wife? Why should he?”
Somehow the phrase “nice guy” didn’t fit Dr. Rosenau. He was nice, very nice indeed, but the genial bonhomie implied in that expression was totally lacking in his personality. Nevertheless, Norma’s judgment restored my sense of balance and I began to wonder if she was right.
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