On the secondary road I am overtaken by a sports car that I can’t catch up with afterwards. I reckon the car is doing 120 kph – I stick to the permitted speed, eighty. I’m furious with myself for being so docile, so obedient. Ten kilometres further along the road the sports car is on the verge, the traffic police have intervened. The driver is standing next to the policemen – it is a woman, a female driver. I know her, she was a teacher of mine at the upper secondary school in Haarlem, where my mother worked in the administration. Her subjects were Greek and Latin – she could tell us everything about Homer and Cicero. She was unmarried, but a school is an ant-hill with a thousand eyes. She was seen late at evening in the town centre with a young man from my class. Not a unique occurrence, she was seen with him on several occasions. This love affair spanned twenty years – a scandal in both senses of the word. The rumours could not be denied, the headteacher kept well out of reach. Not because he was lazy, but because he was civilised. He tried to exclude everyone’s opinions about anything outside the school, but in this case he was unsuccessful.
So he had to invite her to come to his office, which he did with reluctance. They were on friendly terms. He had got to know her at a gathering of classicists. She had just completed her university studies and was looking for a job. He asked her to apply, it proved a success. After four impeccable years this happened. No one has ever found out what the headteacher and the female teacher discussed. The young man in question passed his final exams and the teacher carried on teaching there until she retired. Years later, when my mother stopped working, she told me that the headmaster had told her that he never knew what the nature of the relationship was between the female teacher and her pupil. He said:
‘The fundamentalist legitimises his intolerance by making a claim on absolute truth. According to the 15th century jurist, philosopher and theologian Nicholas of Cusa, truth does exist, but it remains unknown to us’
I have always felt this is a splendid point of departure and I wanted to walk over to the female driver of the sports car. Would she be willing to tell me about really happened back then? But I didn’t do so, the police would probably have objected.