The first night I had a real conversation with Professor Garrison was the last night I saw him.
Every college town has a staple drunk. They pay rent at a bar stool, drinking away whatever leads an aging man to drink bottom-shelf Scotch surrounded by college kids. Ours was Professor Garrison.
Sixty-something, well-dressed but usually crumpled-looking, he was quirky to the point of crazy. Even before a few drinks, he entered the bar mumbling about being lost and getting home. And even though we called him Professor, no one was sure he really was. It was how he’d introduced himself when he’d first wandered in, looking over a newspaper, shaking his head, swearing, and mumbling something about incorrect calibrations—but no one I knew had ever had a class with him.
He thought it was amusing to ask people to arm wrestle, and then reveal his biomechanical arm. Even though he found it funny, we all knew not to ask about it. It was unlike anything any of us had ever seen, and even the medical and engineering students puzzled over its mechanics.
“It’s just not possible,” someone had once whispered, loudly, across the bar. Professor Garrison didn’t respond but he did give a chuckle, throw back the rest of his Scotch, and mumble to no one in particular, “All in good time.”
The only thing we knew was that he’d lost the arm right before he started college.
Maybe we should have been more concerned about his mental health, considering he seemed sure he was “in the wrong year,” but he never bothered anyone. He showed up every night—thick black glasses, messy shoulder-length gray hair, talking about being lost, and I took pity and served him.
But tonight, Professor Garrison showed no interest in drinking. Approaching the bar in a perfectly pressed suit, his hair pulled back and smooth, he shook his head before I could grab a glass.
“Not tonight. It’s time for me to go back to where I came from.”
“Oh yeah? So you’re not from around here?” It was amazing how little we knew about him.
“Not really. I’ve been stuck. But I finally found someone to help fix my ride.”
“Oh?” A group of new freshmen pushed through the door and I rolled my eyes, ready to confiscate their fake IDs. “Who?”
The professor pointed at the group and my eyes fell on a scrawny kid with thick black glasses, hair down to his shoulders, and a bandage wrapped around a stub of an arm cut off at the elbow.