was unintelligent; the few times she had contributed to classndiscussion she had spoken clearly and to the point. Mostlynshe didn’t speak but watched him ravel the learned perplexitiesnwith a gaze so steady it was almost unnerving. Hernattention never wavered. She wanted to know what Platonthought, she wanted him to clarify what Plato thought, shendesired to know how Dr. Hegen judged what Plato thought.nThe notion struck him that Raylene wanted to know thentruth about the universe. She had been misled, deceived,nand flatly lied to by the men in her life, so now she needednto get the straight of it. Here was a mild vexation for Rodney;nhe could not claim to teach the truth but only a prudentncomparative analysis of ideas that are considered — or thatnwere once upon a time considered — to point toward somenpart of the truth. I must tell her that, Rodney thought, ornshe’ll mark me down as one more man she can’t trust.nBut he decided not to tell her of the modest goals of hisnphilosophy class, fearing his explanation would make himnsmall in her eyes. He was proud of being admired bynRaylene and he wanted to stand secure in her admiration.nToday was Thursday and he began to look forward tonthe coming Tuesday with warm anticipation. Whatnwould she tell him this third magical time? Suppose she saidnto him again, as she had said two weeks ago; “I’m going outntomorrow night.” This time he would have to understand itnas an invitation, wouldn’t he? And he would have to respondnin the accepted fashion, driving all about in his car until henand Raylene accidentally tracked each other down. . . . Butnhe could do that only if he wanted to meet her and enterninto whatever such a relationship with her would be. Annaffair, would you call it, a romance?nHe decided that if he and Raylene ever plunged into angenuine love affair something would be ruined. Lovers werena dime a dozen; the relationship that obtained between thentwo of them now was as rare as it was delicate, and it oughtnto be preserved for that reason if for no other. He did notnwant to decline in her estimation. At this moment he wasnunique, the only philosopher she’d ever known. But if theynbecame lovers he would have to stand in competition withnthe hardbodied young men she knew, the wild boys whondrove pickup trucks to match her own. He was certain thatnhe couldn’t stack up. against the carefree Tennessee boys byntheir own standards.nThen — abruptly — he was angry at these nameless,n24/CHRONlCLESnnnfaceless boys he could imagine only dimly. It wasn’t fair thatnthey every one had a chance with Raylene while he wasndenied all opportunity. Of course, this situation was thenresult of Raylene’s predilection for the local hardasses inntheir blue jeans and rolled-sleeve T-shirts and shaggynhaircuts, so he became angry at Raylene. Mostly, though, henwas angry at himself for being such a wimp, sipping hisndopey red wine and reading books that only wimps likenhimself had ever heard of, books that made no difference tonthe real business of the world.nIt was a measure of how far Rodney Hegen was gone thatnhe could say to himself such a phrase as “the real business ofnthe world” without stopping to examine its implications.nAnother indication of his hazardous state of mind was thenfact that he actually said the words, talking aloud as henwalked up and down in his cluttered living room, listening tonhear if Raylene’s truck passed by at ten o’clock or midnightnor later. On Sunday night he turned out his lights and sat bynthe window and waited, peering out, but she didn’t drive by.nAll day Monday he was restless and irritated but onnTuesday, the day of his philosophy class, he calmed downnand thought soberly. Raylene was a serious person, but shenwas hardly a serious scholar and it was likely that she wouldnfind other more engaging interests than philosophy. Shenwould never finish out her semester in this class; in fact, itnwas highly improbable that she would even attend class thisnevening.nBut there she was in her blue jeans with the broad rednpatent leather belt and her blouse that looked vaguely like ancowgid shirt. His whole being brightened the moment hensaw her sitting in her accustomed seat and he plunged intonhis lecture with a piquant bon mot and for the whole classnperiod, three hours without even a coffee break this evening,nspoke with witty clarity and refined brilliance. It was anperformance such as he’d never given before, such as he hadnnot believed himself capable ofnWhen he finished he was drained but still exhilarated. Henwas a little disappointed too that none of the studentsnstopped on the way out to congratulate him on hisnperformance. But he was happy — and enormously relievedn— to find that Raylene waited once more to speak to him.n”This lecture you gave tonight — ” she began.n”Yes?” he said.n”Well, it didn’t make a bit of sense.”nUnhappiness was over him then like a velvet shadow.n”Oh,” he said. “I’m sorry to know that.”n”It was like you were all confused,” she said. “Like youncouldn’t think straight.”n”I see.”n”So I expect we’d better get married.”n”Excuse me?”n”You and me,” she said. “I think we better get married.nSo that you won’t be so mixed up all the time.”n”Do you think I’ll understand things better if we getnmarried?”n”Yes. I believe that will make everything come clear.”n”All right then,” he said. “I accept your proposal.”n”No,” she said. “That’s the first thing we have to getnstraight. I didn’t propose; you did.”n”Oh … I see,” he said, but he didn’t. Not yet.nn