I’m sure I would never have made the acquaintence of Percy Shelley, William Butler Yeats or any of the English poets if it hadn’t been for Mr. Lorimer’s second period English class. I was assigned to a front row seat, not because of any favoritism, but because of my nearsigtedness, for which I refused to wear my glasses.
We memorized and read aloud, then memorized some more, thus giving Mr. Lorimer spare time to correct papers, read, or play the stock market, while keeping at least part of the class occupied.
Franklin Lorimer was a small, grey, self-contained man, whose general detachment made you feel that perhaps he had not had enough sleep the night before. He dressed soberly and properly, in what I assumed was a rather English manner. You could pass him in the hall, or on the street, and never be sure you had seen him, he blended so well with the crowd.
If anyone gave him a thought outside of school hours, you never imagined that he had another life except for English class. But, in actuality, he lived in our house.
We lived in my family home, built by my Great-Grandfather, and owned then by my Great-Aunt Helen. The house had been converted into apartments, with Aunt Helen living on the ground floor, the second floor made into two apartments, and the third floor attic converted into a snug three room apartment. My mother and I occupied the third floor while my father was gone during the War, and my husband and I continued to live there for three more years after we married. For this we paid a walloping $30 per month.
My father’s cousin Raima and her husband lived in one second floor apartment, and Franklin Lorimer in the other. He had been the college roommate of another cousin, which might have made you think he may have shown me special interest when making out his report cards. However well I did, I had to do it on my own, since I don’t remember ever having a conversation with him or seeing him at any place outside of school. He was a quiet tenant, and I don’t think I ever passed him in the hallway while climbing the stairway into our attic. I never saw him go out, nor anyone visit in the five years I lived there.
His sole discretion came at precisely 10:30 each school day, when I was instructed to get him a paper cup of water, which he took to the open window and carefully poured out, hoping to hit the janitor, whose daily route took him under our window at just that time. I don’t know if he ever hit his target, or what he had against the poor janitor, but at least he had the possibility each day.
I pass the old house, now in other hands, and I frequently pass the school. I look up at the second floor window, and wonder what ever happened to Mr. Lorimer, and if he ever hit his target.