~Friday, June 12, 2009

Poet's demise

Coffee with Poet turned out to be tragic, as I imagine any length of time spent with a Harvard-educated poet would be. He had changed since we'd gone through undergraduate school together. He lost his charisma, charm and his rolling belly laughs. The Poet I remembered drove a red Dodge Ram, dipped tobacco and drank bourbon from a 32-oz. plastic cup from McDonald's. This stranger drove an eco-friendly Honda Civic, abstains from everything form bourbon and tobacco to red meat and caffeine, and is now a self-described "cynical mystic" (which I had to look up on the Internet while drinking margaritas the next afternoon with Mel).

In short, Poet had lost his pizazz.

I don't know if it's the medication he has been on since being diagnosed, or the environment he's been living in since he left the great South (meaning hanging out with other poet-y people and doing poet-y things... up north), but Poet had lost all social skills. He spoke with his chin tucked to his chest, even stammering at times. He couldn't make eye contact and was fixated on a dirty penny he found, rotating it in his fingers and spinning it on the table. I felt as if I reached out and touched him, he'd crumble to the table.

A knock on the glass outside interrupted our stilted conversation. A man on the other side of the glass held up his Rilke book, the same one Poet had been reading when I joined him. "Oh look, Poet! He's got your book! How cool is that?" I cried.

"No, he has the same copy as my book; he does not have my book," he mechanically corrected, chin still tucked to chest.

I blew a raspberry at him. It was as if I was sitting next to Grammatically Inclined Rain Man. We both went through the same English program and are both writers: him a poet (shocker) and I am back to technical writing once again. I don't need to be instructed on the difference in syntax; I was simply off duty. Even though I'm not Harvard educated, I consider myself his equal.

"So what's new with you?" he asked.

I shrugged my shoulders, "Nothing. I'm a loser."

"Everyone's a loser, Sarah," he corrected again. "We all die. We all lose in the game of life."

I rolled my eyes. Seriously, this is a bit much. "No, I'm specifically a loser. I specifically just broke up with my boyfriend of 2 years, who, if I was really honest with myself, I didn't even like the last 6 months we were together. I had to give up my apartment and my independence to get away from him and move home with my mother in suburbia because I was too much of a loser to have a job." I exhaled and took another breath, "And if we all lose in the game of life, I'm still a loser because, sometimes—and only sometimes—I wish my game were over sooner."

"So what's winning to you?"

"Winning is middle class, which I used to be a part of but feel I no longer belong since I'm living with my mother and had been on unemployment."

And then he launched into some long thing about boxes and belonging and his disapproval of the two concepts which frankly, I don't remember because I half stopped paying attention and started watching a guy push a baby stroller down the street. Middle class as defined by the IRS is making $32,500 a year; it wasn't a concept to me but something discernible and something I wanted again.

We hugged goodbye shortly afterward. Neither of us said anything about giving each other a call or seeing each other again while he is in town. We had just grown apart, living in two different worlds.

Mine just happened to be reality.


Lisa Chelle said...

How sad that poet lost his sparkle...

Sounds like a rough coffee to get through.

KennethSF said...

It sounds like the poet has led a hermit's life for so long he doesn't know how to be human again.

I wonder if he'll compose a poem about the meeting. If he doesn't, perhaps you should, as an ode to the poet that he once was. :-)


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