Put two active young brilliant brains together and god only knows what will come of it, I thought, as Joe sat down with us at the kitchen table. The boys were interested in developing an application that could help humans read and decipher animal pain, something that made perfect sense to me as a dog owner. “Wow, they just met this morning,” I said.
“Yeah, well it could be a historic event,” Joe said. “They’re teeming with ideas and I don’t think there’s any stopping them.” While Joe and Nash’s mother, Lynn, discussed the brilliance of their two sons, I took the opportunity to study Joe – the way he moved his hands, the way his head weaved back and forth on his shoulders as he spoke, the soft, friendly sound of his voice, but most of all his eyes. He didn’t have his sunglasses on, so I could really see how fixed his eyes were in their sockets, how when he followed your voice and looked at you, it was with an utterly dead stare.
He and Lynn were talking so animatedly that I really didn’t want to interrupt them. But my mind kept returning to Joe’s days as a soldier in Vietnam, and to a more pressing question: his wife, Caroline, was still 3782 miles away in Bolivia, and how did he feel about that? Finally, as they were discussing their sons’ college aspirations, I had my chance. “Did you go straight to college from high school, Joe?”
He turned his head in my direction and looked at me with that dead stare as a smile played over his lips. “That’s a long story,” he said.
“We’ve got time,“ said Lynn.
Joe laughed. “It’s a little embarrassing, but okay, you asked for it.”
As a mathematical prodigy, Joe should have been a shoo-in for MIT, Harvard, Yale, any school of his choice. His SAT scores were perfect. His grades were not. As a junior in high school he began smoking weed, a substance he loved so much he would have given up the rest of his life for it. College? Who cared about that next to the utter brilliance of his thoughts while he was high. The searing beauty of some of the girls in his class, the earthshaking delights of sex, especially after a few tokes on a joint.
He kept his pot paraphernalia in an abandoned shed on the edge of the property. But on his eighteenth birthday, two days before high school graduation, his father wandered into the shed and found his stash.
To be continued…