Practice is over; all of our athletes are safely in the locker room and Syd and I wander back to the office to collect our shoes and purses.
“Remember when I took that Spanish class at Northwestern?” I ask Syd as we push through the heavy double doors and back out onto the pool deck.
“Yeah!” She nods as we push through another set of doors and emerge into the early evening heat.
“I’m thinking about visiting her. Right now.” I say.
“You should!” Sydney exclaims, squinting at me in the yellow/orange glow of the summer evening.
Syd and I stay outside the pool facility for a while longer. We’re talking about coaching and school and friends and plans and travel and family and summer and work and everything in between. I tell her goodbye a couple of times, but before I even turn my back and begin my warm trek home, she says something else that I simply must respond to. So I lean against the stone pillars, pick idly at the bushes next to me, and we talk.
It’s past 7:45 by the time I follow through on my threats to leave; we exchange “See you tomorrow”s and part ways.
I adored my Spanish teacher, whose class both me and my father took before out family moved to Mexico for eight months. I communicate occasionally with her on Facebook, and I knew that if I wanted to visit her, this was my last chance before classes let out.
I make my way to the same old, scholarly building that my Spanish class was in two years ago, and climb the front stairs.
“Alright, God,” I pray as I go down the hall, “If you want me to run into my old teacher again, please help that happen.”
I’ve taken various classes here, and it always smells the same. I walk down the hall, take a sip from a water fountain, and then slip into the bathroom.
Out in the hall again, I pass my old classroom, and a movement in the chicken wire window catches my eye. Peering through the foggy glass, I see my teacher in the front of the classroom, conferring with a student over what I assume to be an exam.
There is a long, wide wooden bench down the hall, and I take a seat while I decide what to do. God answered my prayer in a rather obvious way, but I’m still not sure what to do next. I consider getting up and leaving, but I came to say hello to an old teacher and friend, and it seems rather pathetic to just leave.
So I stay. Within a minute or two, someone emerges from the doorway down the hall and my suspicions that they are taking a test is confirmed. When else do people trickle one by one out of a classroom other than when they have had a final?
I visit the water fountain again.
I remember that I never drank water while at Spanish class because the water fountains are perpetually lukewarm.
I sit down again.
Someone else comes out of the classroom.
I consider leaving.
I become nervous.
I walk around.
I play Solitaire on my phone.
Someone else exits the classroom.
That’s enough, I’m going in.
Flustered, I open the door, and then knock on it, my head and upper body in the room while the rest of me waits outside until I am welcomed in. My teacher is accepting a completed exam from one last student, and she looks up when I knock a second time.
I’m immediately summoned into the almost- deserted classroom and hugs and a torrent of Spanish follow. Her Spanish-from-Spain accent is just as it was when she originally taught me Spanish, and she laughs over my strong Mexican accent. It’s nonstop Spanish; laughing and chattering and catching up, right up until we part ways in front of my house. I thank her for the ride home and we make loose arrangements for a more planned get-together in the near future. “I’m so glad that you stopped by the classroom!” She says as I climb out of the car. I smile and wave, “So am I.”