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RoseAnn and Barry go to dinner at Gloria’s
Sunday evening about six, I parked RoseAnn’s BMW in the Gruendlich driveway. I opened RoseAnn’s door and took her hand as she floated gracefully from the seat. She was a vision of feminine beauty in her new black dress, with the same dark nylons and heels she’d worn while standing over me at the press bench. She cradled a bottle of mid-priced merlot in her arm.
Gloria opened the door with a broad smile and an enthusiastic welcome. She’d done her hair in an elegant French roll, a radical departure from her studied casualness on campus. She wore a sheath of Kelly green–apparently her favorite color–with matching low heels.
The house smelled of roasting meat and spices, and my mouth watered. I’d deliberately eaten almost nothing since breakfast so as not to spoil my appetite.
I made introductions, and the women complimented each other’s dresses, as women do, made small talk, and exchanged autobiographies. Gloria had been born just after her parents had emigrated from Germany. At various times in her youth, she’d lived in Boston, Chicago, Tokyo, College Station, Texas, and finally California, as her father progressed in his career. They’d lived only a few months in California when her mother was killed. Other than her father, Gloria had no relatives on this side of the Atlantic.
“So my biggest problem right now, other than looking after my father, is what to do with myself when I’m on my own. Just a couple of years ago, I itched for independence. Now that it’s staring me in the face, it’s frightening. I don’t know enough about the world yet.”
RoseAnn leaned in Gloria’s direction. “I think it’s a sign of maturity that you recognize the hazard,” she said. “It means you’ll be cautious and thoughtful about your decisions. And I’ll let you in on a terrible secret–life doesn’t get any less scary as you get older.”
“In that case,” said Gloria, “I need a drink.” She held out the bottle RoseAnn had brought. “Does everyone want wine?”
RoseAnn said, “Yes, please, but Barry will pour it for us.” She smiled escort eryaman lopsidedly at Gloria, while motioning me to get up.
I felt no need to assert my macho self in the face of RoseAnn’s authority. Gloria already understood our relationship and seemed to think no less of me because of it. But she watched with an undecipherable expression as I found three wine glasses and a corkscrew hung in a rack over the serving counter, and opened the bottle. I poured the wine, bringing glasses to RoseAnn and Gloria before fetching my own.
“I guess it’s the prospect of being alone,” said Gloria. “I’ve never been alone, and I’m afraid if I get lonely enough, I’ll warp my judgment. I might marry the wrong person, or make the wrong friends, just out of desperation.”
“You must have a lot of friends,” I said. “You’ve lived here for years, and people seem to be naturally attracted to you.”
She shook her head. “Not really. Tons of acquaintances, but not many real friends. We’ve moved around so much, I can’t think of anyplace as home. Every time I thought I’d found a real friend, my Dad would get an offer he couldn’t refuse, and off we’d go to some other part of the world. Now that I can stay here in Palo Alto as long as I want, I’m not sure I remember how to make friends.”
RoseAnn nodded agreement. “I’ve been here less than six months, and I’ve noticed how transient everything is. I think it’s the nature of the place. Everything here is so dynamic, and everyone’s chasing the next whiz-bang. People come and go, or they quit to start their own companies. There’s no time for personal connections.”
“But every now and then, don’t you run into people you know in your heart you can trust?” I said to Gloria.
She stared at me a long time before she spoke. “I do, but I’m afraid of coming on too strong and being a pest, or else being too stand-offish and seen as a snob. That’s what I mean–I don’t know how to make friends. I think I make people feel uncomfortable.”
I almost opened my mouth to tell her that I felt very comfortable with her, but RoseAnn was there and elvankent escort I thought better of it.
While Gloria was seating us at the dining table, there was a small noise in a nearby hallway and Dieter Gruendlich appeared. He wore a tattered bathrobe that was far too big for him, and shuffled in a pair of furry bedroom slippers.
I was the first to see him. “Good evening, Dr. Gruendlich,” I said. “Are you going to join us?”
In a weak voice, he said, “It seems I have to suck my dinner out of a can. No more solid food. I just came to say hello.”
I introduced RoseAnn to the eminent scientist, but he replied, “You’re lucky, Barry. Your mother is very beautiful.”
My head jerked back in surprise. “She’s not…” I scrambled for words. ‘Girlfriend’ or ‘lady friend’ or ‘companion’ seemed inappropriate, so I blurted out the closest thing I could think of. “She’s my fiancee.”
“Then you should buy her a ring.” As sick as the old man was, nothing was going to get past him.
RoseAnn’s voice was solemn. “We’re lovers, Dr. Gruendlich, not engaged. We live together.”
My confused brain delivered up a save. “Well, sir, she’s right, but I want her to be my fiancee.”
He nodded. “I think I understand.” He turned to Gloria. “Would you get me a glass of wine, please?”
Gloria attempted to set a place for him, but he waved dismissively. “I can nurse this glass of wine all evening,” he said. “Bring your friends their food.”
So we ate, and Dieter Gruendlich’s voice grew stronger as he related stories of his early research in the 1950s and 60s. He told of the time he and his team worked 60 hours without sleep to finish the research that was the first step on the road to his Nobel Prize. “The journal editor held the issue as long as he could. When he finally called to say he couldn’t hold it any longer, I was able to tell him I’d just sent the manuscript off by Federal Express and he’d get it in the morning. And then I went home and slept for 30 hours.
“The paper came out just two weeks before our chief rivals published etimesgut escort their work. If I hadn’t been friends with the editor, or if we’d missed the deadline, someone else would have taken the Prize.”
“Is there any way I can see the prize medal?” I asked.
“I’ll get it from the safe,” said Gloria. She disappeared and returned a few minutes later with a transparent plastic case. The medal inside was much smaller than I expected, about two and a half inches across and a quarter inch thick, though still heavy.
I held in my hand the ultimate symbol of scientific success, and it gave me goosebumps. Would I ever hold one of my own? Could I become famous and influential through science, the way Dieter Gruendlich had?
“You’ve got the look,” he said.
“I beg your pardon?”
“The look. The Nobel look. You want one of those for yourself someday, don’t you?”
I stared back at him, my mouth hanging open. I was surrounded by mind readers. First RoseAnn, and Gloria, and now Dieter Gruendlich.
“Who wouldn’t want one?” I answered at last, handing the medal delicately back to Gloria.
“When you registered at Stanford,” he said with his raspy voice, “the hardest part was over. The rest is easy. You just neglect your family and everything else that goes with a normal existence, and devote every waking hour to your science for the rest of your life.”
Gloria protested, “Dad, you know that’s not true. You’re a great father.”
“I’m joking,” he said, smiling, “but only a little.”
He continued to hold forth with tales of the famous people he’d met and worked with, and called for a second glass of wine. He ate most of a piece of cake that Gloria offered him. Eventually, he seemed to realize that he’d spent the past hour talking about himself. To me, it didn’t matter–I was spellbound by his stories.
“You don’t look like a woman of leisure,” he said to RoseAnn. “You have the look of a professional person. What do you do?” This gave RoseAnn the go-ahead to hold forth for a half-hour on the details of cellular telephone technology.
I watched Gruendlich carefully. He was soaking up everything RoseAnn said, and his questions were specific and incisive, or so they seemed to me. His was the face of genius, still thirsting for knowledge even while perched on the edge of the Great Abyss.
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