Professor Rose always held office hours on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from 3PM to 5PM. He always told his students this the first day of every semester. He always included it in every syllabus he printed. And yet, every year, without fail he would spend six hours a week in solitude. An occasional visit from another professor or Department Head would break the repetition, but those were growing rarer and rarer as time went on. Grading papers, listening to records from his turntable, quietly muttering to himself. It was such routine for him, he nearly had a heart attack when two raps at his door interrupted his low playing music.
“Come in, come in. I’m here,” he said, taking a break from the research paper in front of him to see who decided to come in. Walking in was a student of his, he recognized him from his 400 level seminar on The Dark War. Despite having only twelve students, the students name eluded Professor Rose. He was always quiet in class, a rare feat to accomplish in such a small, discussion-based class, but spent all of class writing notes. What the notes were, Professor Rose had no idea, but he always noted the student writing feverishly.
“Hello Professor, I hope I’m not bothering you,” the student said, walking in towards the empty seat opposite of the professor. He had a backpack on, but was holding his notebook and pen. Not a surprising sight at all.
“Not at all,” said Professor Rose with an unintentional dose of sarcasm in his voice. He tried to control it, but in his early 60s, he had found that his willpower to mince words was greatly diminished. However, that did not deter the student, who took up the seat directly across from the Professor. “So, how can I help you today,” he asked, being careful to not include the fact that he didn’t know the student’s name.
“I actually don’t have any real question about anything related to the class directly,” he said, emphasizing the last word very clearly. He placed his backpack on the floor and put his notebook on the Professor’s desk and began to quickly skim through it, looking for a section he must have predetermined. “I did, however, have a few questions about the Battle for New York,” he said, stopping his notebook on what must have been his page of notes on the subject. Professor Rose immediately noticed the neat, small letter that provided, even discernable from his upside-down angle, that this was meticulously written.
“Well, go ahead. Happy to help,” he said, adjusting his glasses. “Was it part of the lecture? A question for the test,” he said, testing the water. He also was trying to scan his notepad for his name, which he was unable to find. Vague pronouns were the plan, for lack of a better option.
“Actually, some anecdotes you mentioned. I haven’t been able to find them anywhere, and I was intrigued by them,” he said. He then looked to his notebook, then back to Professor Rose. “May I?” Professor Rose nodded and the student began to read from his own notes. “Now they may be paraphrased but, here it goes…’It was August 12th, 4:03 AM when the bombs shook Brooklyn. They had destroyed the defenses emplaced across the East Coast, and the city was exposed.’ That’s one. Another was: ‘By the 18th, it was impossible to tell who was in the sky to kill or save those below. All that was clear is that if London had fallen, so could we.’ Another: ‘On the 28th we used the bomb, and despite its destructive power, there was nothing but celebration in the streets. Strangers became friends, friends became lovers, and the city came back to life – despite the broken buildings which it now consisted of.’ One last one, not really an anecdote, but you brought in some old pictures from when you were in a teen during the war, and I was curious about one in particular. Do you still have them?”
Professor Rose nodded and reached into his desk drawer and pulled out a photo album full of dated photos. He put them in front of him and opened them up. “Which photo are you referring to?” he asked his still nameless student. “There was one that you had you friend’s mother take, of yourself and three of your friends? All carrying rifles?” The Professor skipped to the halfway point of the album, noted the pictures present, mumbled in agreement to himself, and skipped forward several more pages until he found the one the student had mentioned. He removed it from its section, and turned it around to the students orientation. “This?”
“Yes! Now if I have it noted correctly, you are on the left, with a ‘John’ next to you, ‘Robert’ next to him, and ‘Frank’ on the far right. Is that correct?” Professor Rose smiled a laughed, “You know, your notes are impeccable. I would appreciate you even more if you spoke as much in class as you wrote!” The student shuffled uncomfortably in his seat. “Well, thanks but to be honest, I wasn’t in your class for the discussion.” The Professor scrunched his face. “Well, I hate to tell you this, but that is literally what you signed up for.”
The student had a look of determination grow on his face. “Well, not entirely. See, if I am correct, that would be John Thompson, Robert Bellinger, and Frank Cooper. Is that correct?” Raising an eyebrow, the Professor nodded.
“And we all know that you Professor William Rose, born 1927 in Brooklyn, New York. Attended College of Williams & Mary in Virginia for your B.A. in History before getting your Masters and Doctorate from Princeton? You then quickly settled in Chicago, never publicly returning your hometown?” The Professor now had a concerned look. He knew this information was publicly available, but it had never been presented to him by a student before. “What are you up to here?” “Is this correct?” “What are you-” “Professor, please. Is this correct.” Resignedly, the Professor nodded his head.
“Then I need to tell you something,” the student said, now rising up from his seat to stand. “My name is William Matthew Harrison, son of James Matthew Harrison and Carol Diana Harrison, with a maiden name of Bellinger. I was born in Seattle, Washington after my Grandmother moved here to provide a better life for my Mother after she was left to raise her child alone when her father mysteriously disappeared soon after impregnating her. Does the name Dorothy Bellinger sound familiar at all, Professor?”
At this point, Professor Rose’s jaw was nearly on the floor. “That’s the name of Robert’s sister. We were… very close.”
“You might even call yourself friends. Your own words told us what friends became,” said William Matthew Harrison, the now named student.
“I don’t understand, I haven’t heard any of those names in years… decades even!”
“It mean, Professor Rose, that you are my Grandfather.”