I was fifteen years old and in the lower, more medicated stages of my clinical depression. I was seeing my therapist twice a month, sleeping regularly, writing as often as ideas came to me (which was all the time), and waiting at the edge of my doorstep for the summer to sink in so I could be off in the wind somewhere making a run for it. I can’t remember whether spring break had just ended or was about to start but it was April, poetry month, and the library was full of students each period dazily listening to the loud drawl that was the poets visiting.
I had gotten out of most of my classes to be present at the poetry read that day. After all, I was a contributing member of the Literary Magazine team at my school, and by contributing, I mean there were at least five works that the librarians allowed me to put into it. I had actually submitted a multitude of them. Because of this, I felt it necessary to be present at the school poetry read that day. I even sat at the poet’s table in the back near the right, conversed with the poets, made myself known, and tried my best to behave like I wasn’t just an over excited freshman who wanted to meet actual writers. I believed that writing was one of the greatest things a person could do. One who transformed words into feelings, into novels and stories that touched the lives of others I believed then, was a truly remarkable person. I still believe it. Writers don’t get half the credit they deserve for the effort they put into their works. That was why I wanted to meet them; I wanted a chance to find out what drove some of these people, and hopefully have a little bit of their drive and effort rub off on me.
I was making small talk with Al Dorango (not his real name obviously) when Ruben walked in dressed in all black, hair slicked back and, from what I remember, wearing sunglasses. The quiet whispers one could hear throughout the entire library went silent. The few who had previously been paying attention to whatever poet was reading turned their attention toward him. Ruben Ramirez had awed and entire group of high school students, and he had done it by simply walking into the library building on the Parkway High School campus (not my real high school-ish). It also somewhat helped that he was with a friend of his (whose name I have forgotten, but the word Alex sort of fits so I’ll just call him that) who was equally as large as Ruben (who was, in fact, quite big) and had long, thick dread locks falling to the middle of his back. Ruben held nothing but a small composition notebook that had been painted black with a Jack Kerouac quote written on it with white out. Alex, a long, black portfolio which I would later find contained sketches for their next comic book.
I thought they were lost. I was shocked that our school librarians had actually invited them; not disappointed, but more curious about them than anything. This was the moment when all of my attention focused on Ruben. He was a poet, Alex was an artist. They didn’t two different types of art and because my interest was poetry, I paid the bulk of my attention to Ruben and his words. I wanted to learn anything anyone (especially someone who glowed with a sort of uniqueness about them as he did) would teach me. He was there for the freshman age poetic picking.
Now, obviously this whole ordeal lasted for only that school day. He spoke aloud words that I had never once read or heard being used in a poem. He spoke with such attitude, such captivating demand that one had no choice but to listen, and he didn’t even used the microphone. Now, if I describe the poems in detail, it would make it much easier for one to find out who he actually is, but because I’d rather keep most of this anonymous, I cannot exactly describe them.
What i can tell you, is that it was exciting. It was exciting to meet people who wrote for a living, who had jobs that weren't your ordinary 9 to 5. These were people I wanted to be like. Well, I mean, obviously I don't want to be a comic book writer (nothing against comic book writers, you guys are obviuosly awesome if you can make your living doing that, just like any other writer, and it's especially a plus if you get action figures, just, that's not exactly my aspiring career) but Ruben was a writer, a poet no less. And he was captivating. he had me eating out of the palm of his hand from the moment he looked at me.
I'm not sure how to explain this phenomena, but have you ever looked at a person and just known that there was something about them, even if you couldn't quite put your finger on it, you knew that there would be some type of impact you would have with each other's lives. Usually it's more a gut feeling than anything, one tells themselves that it's just jitters from meeting someone who you could almost go as far as calling famous. But it wasn't. There's always some part of the subconcious deep inside of us that knows, not necessarily one's future with another person, but how far things may go with them. I don't just mean that sexually. And one could say that the feeling I got in my stomache simply was just the excitement of meeting someone of his status, the feeling I got just about every time I saw this man. All I can really say is that meting someone has never been as exciting as meeting Ruben was, no other instance quite as thrilling, as if I was looking down a steep roller coaster slope. The slight difference, I suppose, is that the anticipation lasted much longer than a mere few seconds.
After Ruben had finished reading and Alex had finished passing his artwork (which, by the way, was some badass artwork) around, and the bell had rung, I stayed after school for a bit to converse and mingle like I had with all the other poets, only this time, it was different. I had much more interest in Ruben and Alex than I had had with any of the other visitors of our school. I asked them questions, how did they get started, was it difficult, was that the only copy of poetry Ruben had? Could I have it?
Ruben joked that of course I could have it...if he died. I said I'd hold him to it. I asked them to please sign my composition book (which got lost at my cousin's house that summer), thank them for visiting our school, and left as they did.