I wonder what circumstance of fate would put me in the same state as George after all theses years. Nevermind in the the same car. When Clara called and asked me to pick up George at the airport, I was less than thrilled. He was a bully in high school and you can’t change a leopard’s spots. HIs father was a major donor to Whately Prep (Tillman Memorial Athletic Field House). Regrettably, George was the one who taught me that money talks. When George beat up one of the only Jewish kids in our class, he was sent to the Head’s office. Not two hours later, he was back on the football field with nothing more than an extra weekend of community service. And what arduous task was he assigned for his penitence? He was sent to work in the chapel. I hardly believe that could made a difference in his views of racial, social, and spiritual equality. I was disappointed in Headmaster Dickinson.
I stand holding a computer generated sign with the name Tillman printed on it. I felt crafty when I designed the font, printed it out and carefully glued it to the back of a piece of cardboard that comes in my laundered shirts.
Greene Airport is tiny compared to Logan, but I wanted to project a level of professionalism that could not be faulted. Too bad I don’t own a chauffeur’s cap, that would be a nice touch of humility before the great George Tillman.
We had our scuffle outside the library --senior year. I was walking home and he jumped me....just for the fun of it. We never got caught and we both lied about the reason for our injuries. My eye stayed black and blue for a week. He must have gone to the dentist to have his tooth repaired. Three days later, I saw him smile his evil, crocodile smile and he had a full complement of front teeth; I know for a fact I knocked one of them out with my fist.
Let by-gones be by-gones. I have bigger concerns. Today, the Board votes whether to accept me as Head of Buildings and Grounds Services (BGS). I’ve been on campus for a week, interviewing and talking with the architect and general contractor on the upcoming project. I think we would make a dynamic team. I offered to go before the board to talk about why my background as a licensed general contractor and my degree in Building Maintenance Technology uniquely Whately Prep uniquely qualify me for the job. I didn't even summon my personal history. Julia said she’d rather handle the posting herself.
Instead, I am playing go-fer. I can play go-fer if it means I can land this job. I am not overlooking that George will be in that room voting yay or nay on whether to offer me the job. I want to let go the past to make room for the present.
Here they come. A spotty stream of passengers comes through the terminal gate. No one in the least resembles the man I think of when I think of the privileged, entitled, George Tillman.
A man stops by my side wearing the full robes of a monk or a very religious priest. In a soft voice, so lacking in ego-invested assertiveness that I can barely hear it, asks, “Carl Lattner?” I swivel to study the face of this man more closely. I see in its structure the person I once knew as George Tillman. He holds his arms open, steps into me for a hug. With two claps on the back, he releases me. His smile, benevolent and kind, is as sincere as I have ever seen.
It is one of those moments when the world takes a curious tilt. I hadn’t seen it coming. I do my best to recover. Reaching down, I pick up his overnight case and say, “Welcome back, George -- or shouId I say ‘Padre?’ Welcome, back.”