The Monster of July

Damian's life changes when one of his professors turns out to be an acquaintance he had erased from his memory. Demons from the past will come haunting him again as their relationship evolves, dragging them both in a rollercoaster of drama, angst, and yes, sometimes a bit of joy.

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2. A Ghost from the Past

          We went to a coffee shop not far from the campus. At first, I feared that some awkwardness would remain from our first meeting at the funerals. I was glad he didn't mention it at all and we chatted pleasantly for a few minutes. Slowly, as I took a sip of my coffee, I became aware that I was enjoying the conversation. This surprised me. I was usually slow to open up; meeting new people was often uncomfortable at best. Somehow, something in him made me immediately at ease. Maybe it was his warm smile, the way he listened attentively when I spoke, the friendliness in his gestures... When there was a lull in the conversation, I decided to ask something that had been on my mind since I had seen him today.

            "You said my grandmother used to be your professor, so you studied biology, right? How come you ended up teaching a psychology course?"

            My question made him laugh.

            "I got a bachelor in biology and Dr. Jenkins was my undergrad thesis supervisor. After that, I ended up doing research in neurobiology and that's how I transitioned to psychology. Thanks to your grandmother's guidance, I obtained a few excellence awards, got my first publication, and had the chance to study with other very good researchers."

            So my grandmother had contributed to the rise of this young genius? "Well, it's going to be embarrassing for me if I don't get a good grade in your course," I said, smiling sheepishly.

            "Oh, I'm not worried for you."

            "What? What makes you say that?" 

            "You really don't remember me, do you?"

            My heart started beating faster. I scrutinised the man sitting opposite me, the dark short hair that was getting a bit too long, the brown eyes behind the glasses... He sighed, shook his head and laughed.

            "Maybe I haven't aged that well, after all." He removed his glasses, rubbing the bridge of his nose. Wait, without the glasses...

            "When I was working on my thesis with your grandmother, we would sometimes have our meetings at her house and I'd see you around. You were about twelve at the time. Then, I think you were staying with her because your father was in hospital..."

            So this guy, this Daniel, remembered me from those days? Was that the reason the conversation had felt so comfortable? He did seem vaguely familiar without his glasses, but I had to admit that I kept very few memories of the period he was referring to. Back then, I would spend my time shuttling between school, the hospital and my grandmother's house. My mother was always working or by my father's side, so I would see very little of her. I guess I had preferred to forget as much of it as possible. 

            "I'm sorry," he said. "It's none of my business." I was lost in my thoughts and it took me a moment to catch on to the reason of his sudden uneasiness.

            "Oh, don't worry..."

 

            As I sat in the living room that evening, my new apartment felt strangely desolate. I didn't have much work to do yet, nothing to distract me, so the events of the day kept bouncing around in my mind. Daniel seemed to have kept a good memory of me. It was too bad I couldn't remember him, even though he probably hadn't changed that much in the past seven years. It would be nice if we could get along well. I was leaning on the couch, daydreaming, when I was struck with a realisation: if I had forgotten about him, were there any other events or people that had been erased from my memory? I toyed with this thought for a while, although not considering it very seriously. After all, it was normal to forget about some people I didn't even know personally. Finally, at around 9pm, I decided I should call my mother.

            "Damian?" Her voice broke the silence reassuringly. There was a weak edge to it, however, which worried me.

            "Hi mom... you sound tired, are you alright?"

            "I'm fine, I just got back from work. Did you eat well?"

            "Yeah, yeah, I did." There was a short pause. "You know," I continued, "you've been doing long hours lately... It's not good for you. I was thinking about finding a part-time job."

            "Sweetheart... I want you to focus on your studies, don't worry about me. I'm fine."

            "Yeah, but..."

            "Settle down a bit for now, we can talk about it later," she sighed. "Don't forget that if you do well in your science classes, you might still make it into med school eventually."

            "Hmm, hmm."

            A long silence fell slowly like a veil over the conversation. I didn't like talking about my future with my mother, but somehow the last thing I wanted at that moment was to hang up. I took a deep breath before gently changing the subject, trying my best to sound a bit more cheerful than I felt. Eventually, the conversation trickled to a stop and we said goodnight. I didn't think it possible, but the apartment felt even lonelier after that.

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