She was a sophomore in psychology and had to visit the home as a part of her class on aging. He was ninety and did not know it. For years he had been lost in time. Floating in time. The first meeting was more or less what she had expected. There was an orderly in the room and the old man was in and out of it and she was not at all sure that he understood that she was there and she was not sure that he approved of her if he did.
After the first week, the orderly left them alone. The place was busy, at least for the orderly, and there were fires for him to put out and when he concluded that she was okay there and nothing was going to fall apart, he left them alone. They talked. She loved to hear him speak. He was English, obviously, and, as they told her at the home, a Cambridge man. It was her idea to bring tea to the meeting. He took it with milk.
You know, my dear, it is permissible for me to speak to you in a way that would be improper for almost any other man. Your husband, excepted.
I have no husband. She said. I am a student.
I know. I know, my dear. That’s why this is my job, now. And I must tell you this: you don’t know yourself. You don’t know your own power. You should take this in, right now. Men have fought wars, nations have fought wars for less than what you can give a man.