The Student: Part Six

The scene is the same. Holderman is sitting on the couch reading a book when a knock comes at the door. He opens it and William enters carrying a container of food. The food is obviously very hot as William scurries past Holderman to set the food down on the coffee table.

Holderman: (Making his way to his chair) I see you brought your dish. What is it?

William: (Sitting down) It was one of the specialties of my dad's old restaurant, Chicken Parmesan.

Holderman: (Sitting down) Chicken Parmesan?

William: Yes. Chicken Parmesan.

Holderman: (Leaning over the dish and examining it) You'll have to forgive my skepticism William, but I've eaten at many nice restaurants and while Chicken Parmesan has almost always been on the menu, it's hardly been the house specialty.

William: (Leans in as well) That's because you've never had THIS Chicken Parmesan (points at dish for emphasis)

Holderman: Very well. (Grabs the plastic fork and knife out of the container and takes a bite) Mmmm I've never had Chicken Parmesan quite this spicy before. What's in it?

William: (Chuckles) I can't tell you all my secrets can I?

Holderman: (Chuckles) I suppose not. It's a very interesting dish and while it's no my favorite, still very good. I'll just have to get used to the spice.

William: Well, I'll tell you this, the owner of the restaurant my dad used to work at was part Cajun. He used to experiment with putting Cajun spices in otherwise normal food. The Chicken Parmesan was one of his successes.

Holderman: (Takes another bite) I'd hate to taste his failures.

William: (Soft Chuckle) Some were quite awful. But his restaurant did have a very loyal if small group of customers.

Holderman: What happened to this restaurant.

William: Oh it was in Washington D.C. you wouldn't know anything…

Holderman: I asked what happened to it, not where it was.

William: (Taken back) The recession of the 80's forced it to close. That's how I wound up way out here. My dad swore off cooking professionally after that found a job maintaining the appliances he once used to cook with.

Holderman: (Takes another bite) Interesting transition. What did you think of it?

William: (Scoffs) Oh I was very young then.

Holderman: I didn't ask how old you were, I asked you what you thought of it.

William: I-I-I don't know really. I didn't like it much. I had always thought of him as a chef and when he changed jobs it was hard to define him in my mind. I had always wanted to be like him, a cook, I guess I found his maintenance job to be less admirable even if it pays more and is just as essential.

Holderman: Interesting way of looking at it.

William: Yes, I guess it is. And that's twice you've done that now.

Holderman: Done what?

William: Said, "I didn't ask you that."

Holderman: (Forces a bite into his mouth) Then stick to the questions I ask you.

William: (Awkward silence) Then can I ask you one and you stick to it?

Holderman: (Takes another bite, sets down the knife and fork and looks directly at William) Yes.

William: Does this make me human?

Holderman: (bluntly) No.

William: But yesterday you said…

Holderman: (Loudly) It's a big step William, bigger than you realize, but just the first step on a long journey. You have so far to come that odds are I will be dead before you reach the end of your quest.

William: (sits back in his seat and thinks for a moment) There's no end to this is there?

Holderman: Everything has an end William, even if it is death, there is an end.

William: You're just going to keep jerking my chain to keep me coming over here so you can have some company aren't you? (Louder) Aren't you?

Holderman: If I wanted company I'd get a prostitute.

William: (Loudly) Nothing mattered, nothing meant anything. You just wanted someone to write poetry, show you a damn card trick and cook you a meal. This has nothing to do with making me a poet! It's about keeping your lonely ass company!

Holderman: (Stands up and points at door, shouting) If you believe that then leave! Leave now and don't come back! I can't keep you here by force. If you think that this is about keeping a lonely old man company then get the hell out.

William: (Stands up and heads toward door) Then I will!

Holderman: Fine! Live your life as you see fit, write all of the mediocre poetry you want. It'll be meaningless! Meaningless. You'll toil, you'll slave and you'll breathe but for what? What? You'll just grow old and fat, you'll be the lonely old man needing company and when you look back on your life you'll have nothing, NOTHING to be proud of. At least I left something genuine behind for the world to remember me by. You'll be lucky to leave behind your timecard.

William: (Turns around and gets in Holderman's face) You miserable old man. I have learned one thing from you and it's that I don't have to take the crap you put out. All you've done is insult me, berate me and make me do stupid tricks. All the while you hold the carrot of enlightenment farther and farther away, just to tease me more.

Holderman: (normal voice) You haven't learned a damn thing from me, just how to BE me. Look at yourself, your tone, your attitude, your words, you've learned how to copy my greatness, but you haven't found your own. If you leave now, you'll be nothing but an imitation, a mere copy of what you saw and felt. If that's what you want, then go. Go now. But if you want to find your own, then I suggest you stick around.

William: (Glances over his shoulder at his seat) Why should I?

Holderman: Because you've now forgotten who you are and if you're to find that, you'll need at least one more lesson.

William: (looks at him quizzically) One more lesson? Just one?

Holderman: Just one. Just one to find yourself again.

William: Then what?

Holderman: Then you decide what's next. If you don't like today's lesson, you can complete it and never return. No hard feelings if you don't. We'll go our separate ways and you'll at least have your identity back.

William: And if I return?

Holderman: (sitting down) I'll make you a poet yet.

William: (pauses a moment and sits down, faces Holderman) One lesson. (Long pause) You can go ahead now.

Holderman: What are the two things we define ourselves by?

William: What?

Holderman: What… are… the… two… things… we… define… ourselves… by…?

William: I… don't… know… Why don't you tell me?

Holderman: (Scowls at William) We are defined, entirely by two things, what we love and what we hate. Those questions are as simple and as bold as what we are and what we are not. They define our borders from both sides and are of equal importance in making us who we are.

William: Ok…

Holderman: So your assignment is to go home and make a list of ten things you love and ten things you hate. If you come back tomorrow, bring the list with you, if you don't, cherish it and read it at least once a week to remind you of what you stand for and who you are. Otherwise, I fear you'll lose it.

William: Is that all?

Holderman: Yes

William: (Stands up) Then I'm gone. Maybe I'll see you tomorrow.

Holderman: Maybe…

William: In case I don't, I guess I should thank you.

Holderman: Why?

William: Even if you've been son of a bitch, it's been interesting.

Holderman: I wish I could say the same for you.

William: What?

Holderman: You might have been interesting some day, but right now you're just a boring, identity-less clod.

William: (scowls at Holderman) We'll see about that.

Holderman: So we shall, now show yourself the door.

(William exits)

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1 Response to The Student: Part Six

  1. Daria says:

    In the search of exelance loosing ones self usually would go untoiced by the peson but may happen, such happens to everyone, even when not looking for exelance, even I can see how i have become a combination of my siblings and my friends, though becoming like your friends is normal for a 13 year old that doesn't mean it a good thing, and i do not despise being like my siblings for i look up to them both greatly, but through all of it I still have a part of me that is just me, and i supsoe i should embrace that part a bit more.. in ym life and writtings.

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