Because this is National Poetry Month, a story about a poetry reading I’ll never forget. Originally this was posted at Red Room on my blog there.
A chance encounter…
It all started at a poetry reading at a college lounge during lunchtime. In the row ahead there was a couple sitting and eating a pizza for lunch. Whether they were a couple or just friends, I would never know although I suspected the former. Sitting in a seat behind them, I waited for the reading to begin while Rob was talking to the emcee, one of his former students. The guy, who was big and brawny, wore a red, black, and white plaid shirt with a tattoo-like imprint on the shoulder. I looked at it one way; I looked at it the other way trying to figure it out. Twisting my head, I finally made out what I thought was Roc-A-Wear. Roc-A-Wear? What was that: a brand? I thought to myself. Finally, after a bit, curiosity got the better of me, and I leaned forward, spoke up, and said.
“I have to ask. What’s that on your shirt? Am I reading it right: Roc-A-Wear?”
“It’s a brand…Jay-Zee’s brand! You know Jay-Zee? You heard of him?”
“Yeah, I’ve heard of him. Hip-hop, right? Not that I know his music that well.”
Then he stood up, lifted up the bottom of his shirt, and showed me his pants. “These are his, too.” And I could tell he was proud of them.
“Nice, very nice.”
With that, he introduced himself. “I’m Tony,” he said and stuck out his hand.
In response, I shook his hand and said, “I’m Nancy.”
“You go here, take classes?” he asked, and inwardly, I laughed since I was old enough to be his mother. On the other hand, quite a few of the students who attend this campus are older, and take classes.
“Nah, I graduated from Ohio Northern in 1978. I’m here with my husband who used to teach here. Maybe you took classes from him?”
“He teaches here?”
“He did…he retired last year.”
“Oh, this is my first year; I took seven years off, but now I’m working on my education.”
“That’s great. It’s good to get back to school—it’s not easy though, starting again.”
“No, it’s not, but I like it.” By this time, Rob had returned to his seat and Tony and his girl had finished, and they got up to leave.
And then he and his girl walked off to his classes.
It was a chance encounter. I’ll never see him again, but for a few minutes all the divides were crossed and it didn’t matter who we are; we just were, and it was great.