Conrad Weiser can not love me back. He died in 1760. I met him for the first time in the basement of Princeton’s Firestone library sometime in the spring of 1996. Like all great loves, he came upon me unexpected. I had my head buried in a book, my body in my carrel, when a friend rounded the corner and introduced us. He had just met Conrad and thought I too should get to know him.
Sixteen years later, my attempt at seduction begun in that basement continues unabated. My husband knows about us. My parents, sons, colleagues, and students have all been introduced. I take him with me everywhere I go, and no one complains. I alone suffer with the knowledge that my affection remains unrequited.
My elusive lover lived a complicated life. He was a pacifist and a militia captain, a celibate monk and a devoted husband, an adventurer and homebody. He refuses my loving efforts to tie him down and commit him in perpetuity to life between the covers of a book. How I have tried.
On the day I announced my first pregnancy to my colleagues, I presented them with my first attempt to capture Conrad on the page. Each left with a different man introduced to his or her imagination. Conrad would not be contained.
As my babe rocked in his swing, I grew annoyed with Conrad’s recalcitrance. I despaired of my ability share him with the world. In the manner of a lover scorned, I wished him a second death, but I could not then nor can I now abandon my Conrad. I follow him to frontier treaties and mystic feasts like a long-suffering spouse.
Someday he might grow tired of my perpetual presence in his shadow. Perhaps then he will concede to join me back in Firestone Library, this time as a volume on the shelf.