The Historian

At home in Amsterdam, my father was unusually silent and busy, and I waited uneasily for opportunities to ask him about Professor Rossi.
Mrs. Clay ate dinner with us every night in the dining room, serving us from the sideboard but otherwise joining in as a member of the family, and I felt instinctively that my father would not want to tell more of his story in her presence. If I sought him in his library, he asked me quickly about my day or wanted to see my homework. I checked his library shelves in secret soon after our return from Emona, but the book and papers had already vanished from their high place; I had no idea where he’d put them. If it was Mrs. Clay’s night out, he suggested that we go to a movie ourselves, or he took me for coffee and pastries at the noisy shop across the canal. I might have said he was avoiding me, except that sometimes when I sat near him, reading, watching for an opportunity to ask questions, he would reach out and stroke my hair with an abstracted sadness in his face. At those moments, I was the one who could not bring up the story.

When my father went south again, he took me with him. He would have only one meeting, and an informal one at that, almost not worth the long trip, but he wanted me to see the scenery, he said. This time we rode the train far beyond Emona and then settled for taking a bus to our destination. My father preferred local transportation whenever he could use it. Now, when I travel, I often think of him and bypass the rental car for the metro.

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