Buber’s Basque Story: Part 11

It was a few weeks later. Classes had ended and Maite had done well in her thermodynamics class, well enough that her professor asked to meet after the final class. She followed him to his office.

Professor Gorostiaga was an elderly man who had been teaching at the University for decades. Maite didn’t know much about his research, but she knew he had done some important work on the properties of quantum materials. He opened the door and, weaving through stacks of books and papers, found his way to his desk. As he sat down, he motioned for Maite to sit.

“Maite,” he began, “you are one of the best students I’ve seen come through the department. You work hard, you have a deep understanding of the material and, most importantly, you are creative in your approach. Have you given much thought about graduate school?”

Buber’s Basque Story is a weekly serial. While it is a work of fiction, it has elements from both my own experiences and stories I’ve heard from various people. The characters, while in some cases inspired by real people, aren’t directly modeled on anyone in particular. I expect there will be inconsistencies and factual errors. I don’t know where it is going, and I’ll probably forget where it’s been. Why am I doing this? To give me an excuse and a deadline for some creative writing and because I thought people might enjoy it. Gozatu!

“To be honest, Professor Gorostiaga,” replied Maite, “I applied to a few programs, mostly in the United States. One has tentatively offered me a spot, depending on how an interview goes. I still need to arrange a visit to the campus for the interview.”

“Ah, it would be a shame to lose you. The Basque Country could certainly use someone with your talent.”

“I wouldn’t be gone forever, just graduate school. I’d come back.”

“I would hope so,” replied Professor Gorostiaga. “But, that’s what we all think. When I was a student, there was a woman in my class, Bego. She was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. We spent almost every waking moment together, in class of course, but also working through problem sets and studying for exams. She was so smart, and so beautiful. I was sure she was the one…” He trailed off.

Maite looked around, unsure of what to say or do. The awkwardness grew as Professor Gorostiaga stared past her, seemingly unaware that she was still there.

After a few moments, Maite ventured a tentative “Jauna? Sir?”

Professor Gorostiaga gave a small jolt, his eyes snapping back into focus. “What? Oh, yes. I was talking about Bego. Anyways,” he continued, “she applied and got accepted into one of the best graduate programs in the United States, at Berkeley. I graduated a semester later than she did. I applied too and even got accepted.” He sighed. “I never was quite as adventurous as Bego. As she started her research at Berkeley and wrote to me about it, I could tell she was moving on. That we were losing that special connection we once shared. I decided to stay here, in the Basque Country, where I was more comfortable.

“The point being,” he continued, sitting up straighter, “is that Bego had originally intended to return too. But, after finishing graduate school, she got a postdoc at one of their national labs, fell in love, and eventually became a professor at one of their universities. She never came Just be back, except for the occasional visit here and there.”

His gaze settled on her again. “You never know what life has in store for us. Just be sure to think about the ramifications of your choices.”

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