"I'm a lonely man," Sensei confided. "That's why I appreciate your visits, and that's why I wonder what draws you here so often."
"But why should you need to ask?"
Sensei didn't answer the question I posed in return. Instead he looked at me and asked, "How old are you?"
To me, the dialogue that followed seemed unrelated to the subject at hand. For the moment, though, I left it at that and pushed no further. However, within four days I was back at Sensei's door.
Sensei smiled as soon as he entered the parlor. "Back already, are you?"
"Yes, I'm back."
Such a welcome, from anyone else, would have left me offended. Coming from Sensei, though, the effect was reversed. Far from feeling offense, I felt delight.
"I'm a lonely man." That evening, Sensei again spoke these same words. "I'm a lonely man, and I wonder if you aren't lonely too. I'm on in years and set in my ways. Your situation is different. Youth has a need to test itself. You'll want to make your mark somewhere ..."
"I'm not at all lonely."
"There's nothing so lonely as youth. If you aren't lonely, then what draws you here so often?" Sensei repeated these same words yet again. "My company, I'm afraid, will not relieve your loneliness. I don't have the power to grab it for you and pull it out by the roots. You'll have to reach out to others, and once you do, you'll be done with me." Sensei ended with a wistful smile.