My sense of smell is stronger than it probably should be. She smelled like she didn’t much care for deodorant, if she owned any at all. I dismissed this as okay. Curiously, Europeans get a pass on smelling like just rained-on dirt. She spoke at length of a past college thesis, the one that preceded her becoming a professor, it involving the still-mystery that is combustion theory. I knew nothing about any of that, but I took it in, moving things around in my brain to make room, and so glad at this sudden opportunity to learn.
When I had the chance to speak, my subjects paled in comparison—what I did for fun, how long I’d lived here—but she let me speak, didn’t try to complete one sentence, seemed to welcome not having to talk herself. I occasionally wondered, mid-sentence, if she understood every word I said. I’d dismiss the notion just as quickly, too, as her listening was intense and rapt and wonderful and rare. So what if she didn’t? Hours into our meeting for the first time and already she was making a fast habit of using my words to hang on; I may as well have been telling tall tales around a campfire. I wanted to prolong that feeling of being listened to so reverently, wanted to stretch these moments out into days.