Seeing Ruben for the first time outside of a controlled area was one of those moments when I felt some true sense of thrill which would only happen a few times in my life. He left me with a fond memory and a borrowed notebook that I would have to give back at the next poetry read. I read it that night, read it the next morning, read it in class, read it many, many times throughout the first week I had it. Poetry reads were biweekly. After the first week, I handed the notebook over to my English teacher, Fritz. He read it at his desk over the course of a few days.
My favorite was one about date rape. I won’t leave you with just that. It was a poem that touched whoever read it, not just because of its topic, but because of the strategy he used in writing about it. He would later tell me that he had written the poem simply because someone had told him that the fact that he was a man made it impossible for him to possibly be able to write about such a subject. He, as a male, was supposedly separate from it. There was no way he could possibly grasp the concept of such. He did. He tore the concept out of the ground and thrust it into his reader’s heart, forcing them to face the emotional damage of it. It was a strong poem, written (as the others were) in all capital letters on faded, almost yellowed paper. And for some reason, I think the simple fact that the pages were discolored and old, and a little coffee-stained made the words within that much stronger…
But back to the real story…
I returned the notebook two weeks later at the next poetry read. I told Ruben how much I loved his work, I told him how much Fritz also loved his work. He was a phenomenal poet; my English teacher believed that most of the poets that went to the Central Perk were just trying to be like Ginsberg, but Ruben, Ruben was a great writer because he had his own poetic strengths. Of course, Fritz hadn’t read the work of some of Ruben’s friends, a few of the other poets that read there. In fact, one of my favorite poems that I had heard at the Perk was a crazy ex-girlfriend poem written by a woman named Jess. But that’s an entirely different topic altogether. I complimented Ruben’s work wholeheartedly. He was my poetic hero. Never had I read something that I loved so much.
I told Ruben this, completely gushing with excitement. I couldn’t get over the fact that this was Ruben Ramirez I beginning to get close to, even almost able to call a friend. I suppose by now, one could say that I would’ve been willing to do anything for his approval. Of course, he had me convinced that I was a good poet in my own ways, that I had my own poetic personality. But I still believe that I was pretty shitty at this point so I won’t elaborate on much of it.
During this poetry read when I returned his notebook, he invited me to return to the next one. I look back now and wonder if this had been his plan all along: to promise me his notebook on the condition that I go to a poetry read, and have me return it at another. Of course, I’ve looked back and wondered many things about him, many small details that I may not have been able to catch immediately, many details that I may have read too much into. But in my defense, I was only 15 when I began going to these poetry reads. I was proud to be able to participate in such a thing. There was nothing I would have wanted more than to simply be able to continue visiting my own little paradise.
I remember Ruben once asking me if I had Facebook. I said no, I had MySpace. “MySpace? Who uses MySpace anymore…” and went on to poke fun at my twelve year old-ness. When he did this I would always blush. I knew I was immature at times, and I was always a little goofy and awkward but I prided myself in these things because I was told once or twice that it was unique and just the slightest bit cute. I wanted someone to notice that. Anyway, I got a Facebook and added every poet I had met at the Perk, and just about everyone I ever knew.
I can’t really say much about seeing him outside of school a second time except that it was only the beginning of me becoming a regular poet there. I began attending the reads pretty regularly until I got grounded after New Year’s for getting home at 1:30 am after being told to be back by 9. Only four and a half hours late wasn’t as bad as my parents made it out to be.
Ok, so something I seriously need to point out to everyone reading my blog before I go any further. I loved the poetry reads and Ruben was my absolute freaking hero. I really liked him at this point, but it’s not like I was obsessed and the poetry reads were the only thing going on in my life. There was one point after January that I stopped going for about a month, then I went a couple times, and then quit going again. I loved being around Ruben and the other poets, but my life didn’t circle around them or anything. At first, I wouldn’t miss any reads at all, and towards the end it was the same way. But around the middle, I just started to have other things going on in my life that were just as important and took up a lot of my attention.
Thinking back now, if I had valued it as much the whole time as I did toward the end, I sometimes wonder if maybe this whole thing would’ve happened sooner. Maybe it would’ve moved a lot faster, maybe I wouldn’t be the person I am right now, or live where I do. But all these what ifs don’t change what happened then or what’s happening now. I think back on Ruben sometimes fondly. But this was all back when I was absolutely clueless. In my next blog, I’ll take you a little deeper into it, start a few specifics, because around now is when things really started to happen.