His name is Professor Michaels, and he takes a special interest in Jared.
Every great once in awhile, a "Jared" will show up in one of his classes. He (or she) is ornery, witty, charismatic, and in an almost offhand way, like an afterthought, a p.s., a pause, just has this--spark.
For this Jared, mostly, it's in his eyes.
He's early twenties, but his eyes are so much older. As if they've seen things, experienced things that most people his age have to have a few more years on them to comprehend.
He glows more brightly than the rest of the students, and has an answer for everything. He's a wiseass, but he grows on you.
Professor Michaels. Man, he was tough. He was tough, but he was fair. Smart as the devil, and persuasive as hell.
He was completely together, laid back, and almost invincible. Nothing got by him. He had this genius mind, and cop's eyes. Those eyes demanded the truth.
He could smell a lie, like a shark scenting blood in the water. Believe me, you'd rather chance the shark. Michaels would cut off your cock and leave you for dead, while smiling his polite, cocktail party smile.
I was late for his class once. Once. That's all it took, even though his class was at the impossibly early hour of eight o'clock. He hated lateness. Said it was disrespectful.
On this particular morning, I was hungover and just hoping to quietly sneak into his classroom, thinking that maybe, just maybe...he hadn't seen me...
As I slipped into a desk, congratulating myself on my sneakiness, his back to me, Michaels said, "So glad you could stop by, Mr. Boone. And that cologne. Magnificent. What do you call that? Is it Anheiser, or Miller?"
I knew that the quickest way to end this was just to tell the truth. "Jager," I sighed, hoping that he'd lose interest in me.
"Very nice. And you wear it so well," his voice not just laced, but dripping with sarcasm, "And what kept your attention so early this morning, that you are," he glanced down at his watch, "thirty minutes late? I'm sure we'd all love to hear what was so fascinating." He folded his hands, and cocked his head, ready to listen.
I tried to think of something, anything, but the only thing that I had in my hungover mind was the truth. So, I took a deep breath and went with it.
"I woke up in the road." I heard a few laughs from the back of the room. Michaels raised an eyebrow, "You're lucky you didn't freeze." His tone indicating exactly the opposite.
I continued on, "I was in a car, with a girl I've never seen. We were both naked. It wasn't my car, but the keys were there, so I drove here."
"The car's still parked outside," I offered.
"Well, I hope you at least covered her body," he remarked, and then went on with the lesson. And that was that.
A few weeks into the semester, he'd become a mentor of sorts to me. He had great insight into the heart of just about anything. He managed to see things, to have this perspective that most people were lacking.
Before I knew it, I'd come to him about the things in my own life. We'd talk, he'd tell me these stories about how he grew up, and I realized one day, that when you meet a man like Michaels, the man who should've been my father, I couldn't call him that. I couldn't make him my father, no matter how much I wanted to, so I did the only thing I could do. I made him my friend instead.
He would've probably said something meaningful, maybe reminded me that family doesn't end with blood. Or maybe if he knew what I was thinking, he probably would've told me he wanted a daughter just like me.
After awhile, I recognized his sarcasm for what it was. That was the way he showed me that he cared.
If he cared about you, you got the sarcasm. If he didn't, you got nothing. On the whole, the sarcasm was much better.
If it wasn't for Michaels, I never would've met Jenna.
Looking back, that doesn't surprise me one bit. The punishment he created with that wickedly logical mind of his managed to give me the one thing I never knew I was missing. Almost as if he planned it. Even better, was the lesson there. That sometimes, out of the worst moments in our life, we find exactly what we never knew we were looking for. Without the pain of regret, the reward of happiness just wouldn't taste as sweet.
Maybe he did plan it. I wouldn't put it past him.