The parents are spending good money

On the kid’s education

In the hope

That in a decade or two

He’ll be ready

To take over the family business.

And what’s he taking?

Good God.

Courses in philosophy

And sociology

And the origin of religion

And some kind of abnormal psychology.

What’s that for?

They ask me to interview him,

To get him to explain himself.

Either they don’t know me well

Or they do.

So he and I

Go on a trip in the mountains.

And he says

As we sit atop a magnificent peak:

“I realize that—”

And his voice becomes low

And surprisingly direct,


Never heard this voice in him before.

“I realize


My parents

Can’t understand my direction.

But I need to know myself.

I won’t go blindly through life.

Every book I open at the school,

Every conversation

That lasts more than two hours,

Even how my girlfriend kisses me”—

They didn’t know he had a girlfriend—

“Teaches me.

I know how much they want me

To live their choices,

But I’m formed

Of their deeper impulses,

Their real hopes.

I feel those impulses

And hopes

In the quiet of every night.”

I’ve sometimes wondered

Why these people

Are my friends.

Now I know.

Alan Salant, who studied mathematics and literature at Princeton, is a writer who wishes for a society that places a higher value on introspection and contemplation. He lives in New York City with his long-time domestic partner, Sheila Fallik, who is a social worker and geriatric care manager. Read other articles by Alan, or visit Alan's website.