The winter semester began and Martin returned to work. For the first time in a while, Abigail accompanied him as well as Bobby and Anthony on the morning commute. Despite the many new starts Martin was still having difficulty shaking the funk that had descended on him over the holidays. It was more than Philip’s new job; he was aware of that–the frustrations and let-downs that had led into the holidays played a role too, but still it was that move that played most on his mind. The thought of his son so far away from home and so very much alone followed him through all of his morning routines.
A 1 PM meeting brought him across campus. Martin tried to contribute but found he could barely stay with the discussions and knew his contribution amounted to little. Mercifully, the meeting ended early and Martin found himself with a little bit of time before he had to be back at his place. He decided to take the long route back, a way that would take him through the thickest of the throng of students and instructors, all trying to re-establish their now rhythms. That sounded comforting. As he walked Martin paid particular attention to those he passed hoping, maybe, that some measure of whatever it was that comprised normalcy would somehow be transferred to him.
“Martin!” a familiar voice called out.
“Alim!” Martin broke his stride and walked over to him. “You’re back! How was Istanbul? I want to see pictures!”
Alim was a young student Martin had befriended three years earlier when he was in first year. He’d spent the Christmas holidays in Istanbul doing charity work and Martin had been looking forward to hearing of his exploits. Alim held out his phone. “Here’s a video of the first thing I saw when I went through the door there.”
The video began. Alim’s phone died. Alim shook his head, “I guess I’d better get to class”
Martin smiled–first time that day. “It’ll wait until we have more time.”
“Wait!” Alim reached into his backpack, took out an envelope and handed it to Martin. ‘This is for you. I tried to drop it off to you this morning but you were not there.”
Martin took the card.
There were no words.
Instead he gave Alim a hug. “You’re the best!” he managed. They waved and went their separate ways.
Back in his spot Martin found a quiet place and opened the card. It was beautiful! Clearly hand-crafted and with a leather-ended chain dangling down the side. Inside was a handwritten message. In it Amin expressed gratitude for how Martin had made him feel at home since he’d attended university.
Martin knew that Alim had just made his day so he decided to just enjoy that moment for a bit. He closed his eyes and just let that gratitude run through him. In that moment a realization hit him. Somewhere, far away, further than Alim had just been, someone was doing exactly that for Philip. Rich, Philip’s friend from university had taken him while Philip was awaiting delivery of the furniture for his appartment. In that time he’d refused all efforts Philip had made to repay him, just laughing it off and saying, “c’mon, man, we’re friends.”
Martin’s funk lifted and he smiled. Second time that day.