- François, did you meet Robert? He comes from France like you. Let me introduce each other.
François's thesis advisor was inviting him to get to know a fellow countryman who was taking some courses in the department.
Although François was not too keen on meeting them - he was in the United States to immerse in American culture not to mingle with the French expat community -, he accepted.
R.: Hello. So, you come from France?
R.: Where did you study there?
F.: In an engineering school. And you?
R.: Me too.
It turned out it was the same school, where they both went at some years distance. Robert was a few years older than François.
The fact that neither of them put forth its name marked the beginning of a friendship.
Robert was short and stocky, with a large, intelligent and vivacious face.
Some years previously, he had begun his thesis in math, with one of the world most renowned mathematician, who had solved the Continuum Hypothesis.
However, after several instances of working hard for three weeks on a difficulty, going to his advisor for help, and watching him solve it in three minutes, he thought he was in the wrong field.
He took his car, drove to the Mojave desert, and spent a fortnight there mulling over his future.
When he came back, he enrolled in Earth Sciences.
He was living in a big house on Middlefield, sharing it with a dozen other young people, some in school, some holding jobs.
It was a kind of latter-day hippie community.
They shared values, emotions and apparently more.
Robert had a fine mind, interested in numerous subjects, ranging from maths, physics, computers, and biology to literature, languages, theater, and Asian philosophies.
He would occasionally spend some days in Ojai, north of Los Angeles, where there was a spiritual center.
He spoke slowly and carefully.
He loathed mixing French and English in his speech, to the point, when he was speaking French, of pronouncing "John Updike" "John Updike".
While being different, Robert and François enjoyed each other's sensibility, way of thinking, and views on life.
They stayed friends for years, until unfortunately Robert disappeared in an air disaster.