Mr. Ernest was a truck driver before he taught us Latin. He loved being both. He was only in his thirties when I knew him, but his hair was all gray, and always needed cutting. We loved him; we never made fun.

An hour a day. Amo, amare. Grammar got tedious and ground to a halt – he could tell when we just couldn’t learn it any more. On long afternoons when the sun came in heavy through the window and the a.c. had gone out, when our learning brains were tired and even baby vocab quizzes were out of the question, he told us stories. I was always in the mood to listen.

Everyone is draped in yards of cloth, but the cloth is thin and light, so it isn’t too bad. The roads are not paved, and the dust never really settles. Every horsecart boils a cloud behind it. There is no deodorant, but plenty of perfume. We would smell terrible to them.

He went on and on, soothing but never droning, easy to listen to but not putting us to sleep. It was a careful balance. I loved that he loved this world, that he had found stories he cared so much about, and he wanted to give them to us. Today I could not conjugate a damn thing for you. But without thinking, I can give you the Latin pieces of the world they walked in: piscina, apotheca, via, calor, pulvis.

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