So I showed up with my friend Abby at a place I will call Central Perk both because the actual name corresponds at least a little bit to that name and because I love the TV show “Friends”. It was the tiniest coffee place I had ever seen. Of course it was in the downtown part of the city, so a lot of the shops and such were fairly small. Nevertheless, I had expected something somewhat different. It was still a nice place though. There was a coffee cup logo on the front window. It was a white drawing with a brown background, steam lifting up out of the cup. There was a dj booth toward the back, a couple of sofas with short coffee tables. Around the rest of the coffee shop were small, circular tables, most of them short, and tall ones all around the edges near the walls and windows.
I was at least half an hour early for the poetry read. I was dressed in blue jeans and a huge, black tall tee I had received as a birthday gift from a friend named Manny (real name, but only because we weren’t close and haven’t seen each other in almost 3 years if I’m correct). It was littered with red and white outlined drawings of sneakers. The shirt went down almost to my knees, but I thought it looked cute on me, especially when I used a hairband to tie it just below the waist. I wore this with a black, studded hair clip. If one could look exactly like a 15 year old girl, it was how I looked that day. I know, I’ve looked through the pictures and videos. I was the youngest person there. Don’t get me wrong, I was entirely passionate about poetry, there was nothing I loved more than those poetry reads, and I more than likely still would have attended whether Ruben had gone or not, but he was the first reason I began going.
Ruben was the first person I saw when I walked in the door. He was seated at a table near the back, a laptop open on the table with a bumper sticker (yes, a friggin bumper sticker on the back) advertising the poem “Howl” by Ginsberg. Of course, this was long before I knew anything about Ginsberg. That book wouldn’t be handed to me until sometime that winter before Christmas break took hold.
So, he hugged me. I was throwing a small party in my head for myself when this happened. Of course, I knew that everyone at the time hugged each other as a sort of greeting. We did it everyday at school. When you saw a friend anywhere, even if you had seen them earlier that day, you hugged them most of the time. I could probably assume that this was going on with the teens as well as some of the adults unless of course, they were just humoring me because I hardly ever saw Ruben hug anyone else that wasn’t a woman, and even some women he wouldn’t hug.. But back to the main topic. I was absolutely beaming with excitement.
I didn’t ask for the notebook right off the bat but I did flip through a few pages of it, once again admiring the crude work he had done on the front and back covers. He wrote in all capital letters, with runny black ink gel pens. His notebook was either old, or he had made it to look so. The pages had become an off-white color, some of the back pages even looked a little coffee stained, and every single page in that notebook had been used. He only wrote on one side of the page too. I assumed it was because of the runny black ink gel pens he used. You see, if you write something on the front side of one page then on the back side of the one in front of it, the ink on both pages will rub off on each other if you don’t use the correct type of writing utensil. This happens if you use the wrong type of pen, and if you use any type of pencil. These are ridiculous little facts that poets know…
He read a poem about the Japanese art of bondage. Abby and I were whistling and giggling and making crude comments by the time he was done with his poem. Ruben walked past our table shaking his head and laughing, calling us “cochinas”. We only laughed all the harder. You see, as much as I wanted his attention, I began my attempt to gain it in the same way a 1st grade girl would get attention from a boy, by always being around him, and often poking fun at little things I found humorous about him. He would, in turn, do the same to me.
He laughed at me for mot having Facebook, and instead having only MySpace. “Who has MySpace anymore?” he said as he compared me to a twelve year old for not only my lack of Facebook, but also because my mother was coming to pick me up.at 9. One of his comments as I began to walk off to go do something of importance at the time (as I recall, it was to go buy gum at a nearby store) was, “Wait, give me a minute to make fun of you some more… What do you have to be home in time to watch Hannah Montana?”
As it turns out, I hate Hannah Montana; I have since the moment the TV show came out. I’m more into TV shows like “Shameless” or “House” but once again, that’s not the story I’m telling. Ruben poked fun at my friend and me for having an early curfew, and a mother to pick us up. I laughed with him, and blushed. I may have had my mother coming to pick me up, but I was also the youngest person at that particular poetry read, and the only person at my high school (aside from the occasional friends I would bring) who was ever going to attend these reads.
The fact that I was the youngest person there was only a good thing because, looking back now, my poetry sucked. Honestly, I was absolutely horrid at performing my poems. I read a poem about a guy name Jonathon who had given me my first kiss. I also wrote about the fact that I was 14 when this happened, he was 9 years older than me, and that he utterly broke my heart… Very emo heart break. I’ve watched the video, and it’s actually pretty terrible. On top of that, my glasses had gotten lost in a rainstorm a few days before this particular read and I was holding the paper two inches from my face. Like I said, horrid…
I also recall meeting a poet there by the name of Darren (not his real name). Darren was at least in his 40’s whom I met while talking to Ruben. I introduced myself and politely told him that his work was pretty badass. When I said this, he pulled a book out of his pocket (a book, by the way, that you will find on Amazon for $10, but sorry, no title) and handed it to me. I still have it somewhere at my mother’s house. I read it and would later love a few of the poems and hate others, such as one that consisted of more lines than words. It was less than one sentence long and consisted of a complaint about coffee. Not exactly the greatest of his or anyone’s work. Nevertheless, I still rather liked the fact that a published author was just handing me his work and I’ve had that book for over 2 years now despite the fact that I now know that thousands of people publish work every year and still make almost nothing.
I realize that I’m rambling without meaning to, but for some reason I feel that I should introduce you to all of the people I met there. To be perfectly honest, most of them were perfectly wonderful people and despite the facts that this story is addressing, I feel that my relationship with these people, Ruben’s friends was just as important to my experience in the city as my relationship with Ruben himself. These are the people who knew him better than I ever would. This is because you don’t know someone by listening to everything they tell you about themselves and being able to remember all of what they told you. You don’t know them because you’ve spent time with them for a few hours in a day. Even as I write this story I still don’t know Ruben, and I probably never will know him. I only know a few parts of him that –yes- are crucial to this story and help to make up who he is, but even those things I know are just pieces of a much larger puzzle, a puzzle that possibly not even he will be able to completely put together. What makes this story important is finding what is below the surface of a man. His friends would have known much more about that than I.
Of course, I’m not going to make any references to any of his friends on this blog. Even though they all knew Ruben as person far better than I did, none of them had even the slightest idea of what was going on as far as I know.
Continuing, the poetry read ended long after I had left with Ruben’s notebook after giving him my phone number, email, and possibly even my address. If all else failed, he said, he knew where my school was…
All in all, I realize most of this post was me rambling about this or that, but one must realize that I was just 15 when this poetry read happened. I was excited. Going back to that place now, I still think of all that I could have held to that day. I was young and inexperienced. But I was also meeting my hero outside of school, out in the world where there were no boundaries as to what we could say to each other. It was the beginning of something big, bigger than I ever thought it would be. I had never met people who were so smart, so educated, and so much more talented than I. I can’t be blamed for cherishing that so much.