ing Raylene? It wouldn’t be a statistically improbablenoccurrence; the population of Sugdon numbered no morenthan some ten thousand-odd souls.nBut if he was inexpert in instinctual behavior and localnfolklore, Rodney had confidence in his ability to read thenfiner parts of human character. Raylene had vouchsafed anconfidence. She had sized him up and regarded him asntrustworthy and this was her seal of friendship: Here is whatnis in my mind to do, Dr. Hegen. A simple declaration and nonmore. It would be easy for Rodney to hear dreadful thingsnabout her boyfriend Frank but she was not going to be thenone to tell. Because, you see, on his side Rodney had to trustnRaylene that her night out being a naughty girl was the rightnthing to do, a necessary stage in the relationship with Frank.nShe had told her philosophy teacher what she was going tondo because she was a serious person. She respected him as anman who spoke familiarly of Aristotle and Descartes and tontell him about her night of indiscretion was a way to shownher respect.nBut why shouldn’t she take up with Rodney? Whynshouldn’t they enjoy a wild, brief, passionate fling? Rodneynwas a bachelor and rather a hapless one, to judge by thenrumpled and shapeless look of his clothing and the sunlessnpallor of his face. He wore the usual academic sports coatnand tie, right enough, but a lower button was likely to benmissing from his white shirt, revealing a demure concavennavel mounted in a comfortable-looking paunch. Dr. RodneynHegen was an academic of the ancient type: wornncarpet slippers and no word processor, a devoted believer inncareful thinking with a mercifully short list of publications.nHe could not have recognized a jogging shoe.nIn short, no strings. Why then did he merely file away thensalient and seemingly inviting facts about the handsomenRaylene without trying to act upon them with romantic, ornat least with sexual, intent?nIt was because he was lucky this time and thought henunderstood Raylene’s motive in telling him her secret. As angeneral rule, he had no inkling of the duplicities, subterfuges,nand arcane stratagems that infest a casual humannrelationship. It never occurred to him that someone mightnbe shading the truth, or omitting some part of it, or flatlynlying to him for reasons of personal advantage. But thenseriousness with which Raylene spoke her sentence — “I’mngoing out tomorrow night” — gave him to know that therenwas nothing trivial about it, and certainly nothing coquettish.nShe was going out tomorrow night because she was at andesperate stage with her boyfriend and her going out wasnsupposed to effect some change in their relationship, fornbetter or worse.nSo he was not surprised to find that after the next class onnTuesday night, she was again waiting until all the othernstudents had departed to speak to him. She stood patientlynby the blackboard as separate questions were asked aboutnterm papers and an approaching midterm exam. Thennwhen the room was empty but for the two of them, shenspoke with perfect seriousness: “I went out last Wednesdaynnight.”n”I see,” he said, feeling that he did see.n”I drove by your house,” she said.n”Oh?”nAnd once again she nodded in agreement with hernprivate thought and marched steadily off, leaving him tonthink: this second time she spoke two sentences. If she staysnto talk next week will she speak three?nThen he imagined her driving by the little stone bungalownhe rented on Cambridge Street, her snazzy black pickupnpurring by, throbbing with power. She would have seen hisnlights on in the living room where he had sat reading orngrading papers or sipping a glass of passable red wine whilenlistening to the classical music station. He could notnremember precisely what he had been doing last Wednesdaynevening, but all his nights were so similar that he was able tonform an accurate idea. Perhaps he had called his mother.nOnce a week, Wednesday, ‘Thursday, or Friday, he telephonednAlbany to tell his mother that he was doing well,nenjoying his classes and students, and no, he wasn’t marriednyet, no he wasn’t dating anyone special, no-no he hadn’tnmet any women who meant anything out of the ordinary tonhim. But yes, there were lots of nice girls in east Tennessee,nit was only that he’d been so busy with his teaching andnresearch. Then after he had hung up he wondered what hisnmother would think of Raylene Thomason, and decidednthat she wouldn’t think anything. If his mother ever metnRaylene she would only gape like an awestruck Tennesseentourist visiting the Louvre.nMostly she didn’t speak but watched himnravel the learned perplexities with a gaze sonsteady it was almost unnerving. Hernattention never wavered.nThat one vision of the two worlds haunted him, Raylenenin her dashing pickup truck off to meet some muscularnbeery young man in his denim jacket with the cut-offnsleeves; and he, Rodney, with a half glass of red wine, in onenhand and an open book in the other, sitting in his soilednoverstuffed chair he’d bought at Good Will and with hisnstocking feet propped on the cardboard box full of professionalnjournals that served for a hassock. This vision stayed innhis mind as representing with utmost clarity the two separatenworlds that he and Raylene inhabited. These worlds were sonclose that they even touched, but they were so alien to onenanother that expressive communication between themnseemed unlikely.nIt was a situation not entirely unheard of, but he couldn’tnhelp wondering how Raylene perceived it. Did she see theirnrelationship as the fragile touching of separate worlds? Didnshe see any relationship between them at all? But she hadninitiated the relationship, so she must recognize it in somenway. Probably it was no more than it seemed; he was hernrespected teacher in whom she had invested a personalnconfidence.nHe allowed himself to dwell only briefly on the larger andnmore intriguing question: how did Raylene ever come to bentaking an introductory course in philosophy? Not that shennnMAY 1989/23n