The best laid plans may go awry—even the fairest.
It was the last day of second term before things got interesting, an icy April day, wind off the water. The seminar leader set the discussion: is kindness rational? An ugly boy and a macho name-dropper debated; Tom looked out the window. The ugly boy – short red cowlicked hair, glasses – said Hobbes’s “warre of alle against alle” was misunderstood taken out of historical and cultural context (he was always saying things like this, annoying the Great-Ideas-Are-Eternal seminar leader); the name-dropper countered with Kant and Nietzsche. The red-head responded with Rousseau, and hitchhiking.
“You always get where you want to go,” Massachusetts farm boy accent coming through. “They’ll warn you about psychos, but someone always picks you up.”
Tom had a thing for redheads; the ugliness of this boy had been a depressant from day one. But now, gaydar pinged. He spoke to the creature after class.
“You got to believe in kindness.” His name was Greeb. For real; he insisted on it. “How else would you get out of bed in the morning?”
“From a keen interest in seeing what horror the world brings forth today.”
Greeb laughed. “But see,” he said, “people run the world these days as if self-interest is the ruling principle. But it’s a choice, a mass performance,” and he lowered his voice. “The current of kindness – and I mean that in every sense, our deep kinship, yeah? – that current never stops running. Even in the worst places in the world.” He put his hand on Tom’s forearm, and Tom felt a thrill running up to his shoulder, around and down his spine. “How do you explain that?”