Remembering Steven Bach: Graduation

I wore a suit and tie at graduation. It was a weird moment, Bennington has this pre-grad dinner thing for the parents and the faculty to inter-mingle a little bit, and I figured I ought to try and look nice at least this once in my life.

My parents and I were separated for a bit, which wasn’t such a bad thing, but while looking for them, I ran in to Steven, who was dressed nicely, but that was far less strange for him than it was for me. We shook hands, he asked me something, what I don’t remember exactly, but while we were talking, he reached out and grabbed my tie, and laughed a little.

It was an odd move. Even my closest friends don’t usually opt to enter my personal space so casually. But taking my tie in his hand, he lifted it up [thank god it wasn’t shorter, or I’d have been throttled], and Steven shook it at me a little, and said that, certainly I hadn’t bought this right? Someone had bought this for me right?

He looked across the way, to where Sam was sitting with her family, and nodded, implying that maybe my girlfriend had helped me get away from my usual flannel and black t-shirt ensemble.

“Sorry, Steven. This one’s all me.”

He nodded, not believing me for a second, even though for once this fiction writer was totally telling the truth.

He patted me on the shoulder, said congratulations, and said I should stop by his office before I left, so we could talk one last time before I was out of Bennington for good. And we tried. He called a couple of times; I stopped by his office every free chance I could get. But we never managed to get together before graduation was over.

I don’t have a lot of regrets as far as graduation went. I said goodbye to the right people, hugged and cried at most of the right times, and had several of my professors give me good words on the way out. Even got to tell this important girl something special too. But I didn’t get my last conversation with Steven Bach, didn’t get those words of wisdom from a mentor that I thought would serve me well in the real world.

That’s always upset me. Even before he died, that’s not a moment you can get back with a person – it’s very set in a certain time, part of a certain rite of passage. And it’d passed.

Shame though. Knowing Bach, it probably would have helped a lot.

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