Approximately fifty-five minutes later, a showered and clean-shaven Jean Michel Pinot was walking down Ninth Avenue, quickly approaching Amy’s Bread. Standing outside of the small café/bakery was a short, thin man, wearing a pair of tan cotton khakis, a crisp white long sleeved oxford that had been made short sleeved by the rolling up of the cuffs, and a pair of polished black shoes. His haircut might have brought the armed services to mind, but his physique suggested otherwise. It was Klaus.
Through his wire-rimmed glasses, he looked directly at Jean-Michel, who was relieved that he had not left his apartment in anything less formal than his friend. An inequality of dress usually felt awkward to someone in a social gathering, usually the individual whose dress style was out of place. Jean-Michel smiled as he approached his dear friend.
"Have you brought it?" he asked Klaus. Klaus responded by waving a small notebook. "Here they are," he said, "all of the latest." He smiled as he looked at the notebook, and then added, "Mostly from the last few years. Three or four, maybe." For such a reserved individual in regards to his poetry, Jean-Michel thought, he was awfully prolific. Maybe he was one of those types that was a genius but somehow either didn’t realize it or who had such a low self-worth that he wouldn’t even allow the thought of being above mediocrity. Why did great minds, being so full of brilliant thought, fail to recognize itself as others so clearly perceived it?
The two friends headed inside the restaurant, which was somewhat crowded. They each ordered muffins and coffee, not exactly a coincidence of the magnitude of running into a close friend while on an airplane headed for Denmark. As they sat down, Klaus asked Jean-Michel to kindly refrain from reading over the poetry while drinking the coffee – though he thought little of the work, he felt there was something to be said about posterity, and preserving some record of one’s existence for future generations. Jean-Michel of course agreed, as any good friend might.
Free Fashion Show
They soon finished the muffins, which were superb, and watched people walk by on the sidewalk as they drank from their coffee. It was, in a way, a free display of fashion. Perhaps it was the ugliness of certain people that made it not quite so free. People walked by in all kinds of blue jeans, from the kind that seemed as though they were painted on to the large baggy varieties that probably used about twice as much material as a pair of trousers that size should merit. Many wore t-shirts advertising the designer of some jeans but ironically were not themselves wearing jeans. People would pay an obscene amount of money for clothing that had the name of the designer in enormous letters. Jean-Michel felt that such clothing was in poor taste, for it practically made the wearer into a walking billboard advertisement. The designer should then pay you to wear such an article of clothing, not the other way around.
As it was, some people just liked to have names of major designers screaming off of their clothing. Often, these people would be the very people who should not have been spending their money on such expensive clothing, and perhaps might have wanted to save up a little money for "rainy days", or to pay off a loan or a mortgage a little bit faster. People preferred staying in debt but looking (in their seemingly shallow perspectives) fashionable. What they really looked like, Jean-Michel thought, were people who were paying fifty dollars for a dollar of cotton with somebody’s name on it in big letters. If only he could write "Pinot" on a shirt and sell it for fifty dollars.
A few women wore long flowing dresses, but they were in the minority. There were skirts of all lengths – down to the toe in some cases, being close to non-existent in others. It was far too easy, they agreed, to use less material than more, as naked skin usually had a sort of aesthetic appeal. A few of the women with longer skirts also wore wigs, sometimes a cloth head covering. A rare show of modesty, Jean-Michel thought as he observed their long sleeves and determined yet inconspicuous way of walking.
A quick round of the game "Spot the Tourist" ensued. It was a fairly easy game, the object being to point out people who almost seemed to make an effort to appear lost, confused, and out of place. They carried around large maps of the island, and wouldn’t eat anywhere unless it was suggested by one of the many guidebooks on the subject.
The game grew boring, and Jean-Michel asked to see his friend’s poetry. Klaus hesitatingly handed over the notebook.
A Metaphor or Five
Some poems spoke of nature, the beauty of certain flowers, rare birds, waterfalls, and even the sizes and shapes of clouds as they appeared when the sun was setting. There were poems that invoked the names of Roman deities, biblical figures, and myths from various cultures. The poetry was nothing short of beautiful and brilliant. It was not just Klaus’ choice of subject but the words he used to describe them. He used words as if they were musical notes, knowing the proper tempo, spacing, and length.
"These are wonderful," Jean-Michel said, "have you ever shown them to anyone, or tried to get one published?" The shocked look on Klaus’ face answered the question, in a way.
"As I said before," Klaus softly replied, "these works stay in my apartment, or rather they did before you requested to see them."
"Surely others have seen them before me."
"As a matter of fact, you are the first person. I didn’t count the time I watched Conrad for a week and read a couple of poems to him."
With these words, Jean-Michel beamed. He was a little giddy, knowing that his friend thought so highly of him. Of course, he had an idea that this was the case before, but this action affirmed it in his mind. "I think you should submit some of these to literary reviews, magazines that accept poetry, maybe even some contests…"
The banker-poet was quiet, and looked down at his now empty cup. Finally, "Do you really think I’m that good?"
"If I didn’t, I wouldn’t have suggested it" Jean-Michel replied with a smile. Jean-Michel was not the type to make compliments unless he meant them, and Klaus was well aware of this fact. Klaus nodded, and said that he would most certainly consider it. Would he really? Jean-Michel was not sure, and could not be, for Klaus was the type of person who would agree to something to end a topic in a conversation, so something more comfortable could be discussed.
How about them Knicks?
Klaus asked Jean-Michel if he had seen the Knicks play the previous evening. Jean-Michel replied that he had not, but that he had read about the game in that morning’s New York Times, and was quite pleased that they had won. Between the two of them, it was evident who was the bigger fan of sports. If Klaus could have afforded it, he would have owned a pair of season’s tickets, and would have most definitely been at every home game. Jean-Michel, on the other hand, was not familiar at all with the game, short of knowing that the off-orange ball needed to go into the net in order to score points for the team. Jean-Michel felt that the New York Knickerbockers (he was fond of that more "formal" name) contain
ed the spirit of Manhattan, and so he was thrilled to hear of their victories and saddened to know of their defeats. He even watched from time to time, as he enjoyed the fast action on the screen. Even Conrad liked watching, to the extent that one could observe his eyes moving around to follow the ball. Of course, it could have had something to do with the fact that Jean-Michel sometimes, during the play-off season, put Conrad’s food dish near the television.
Looking at his watch, Jean-Michel realized that he had an appointment to get to. He apologized to his friend, and thanked him for sharing the poetry with him.
The Attack of Self-Doubt
The coffee had been good. The muffin had been even better. The poems: had he really just shared some of his most personal writings with his best friend? Yes, he had. Was this a good idea? Jean-Michel seemed to like the poems, and had given his approval. Was it really necessary for him to approve in order for the poetry to be good? Of course not. He had thought that his poetry was just fine in all the time that he had kept the poetry to himself. If his poetry was so good, though, why didn’t he share it with anyone? Did he have to share it with someone in order to make it real? Wasn’t it enough just to write the poetry, and appreciate it himself? Who needed the recognition of literary magazines, when he knew it was perfectly fine just sitting in his notebook?
Klaus thought about his job, and how terribly tedious it was. This was not at all what he had in mind when he was going through school. Klaus admired Jean-Michel, for he did something he enjoyed doing – writing. How was he doing financially? Did it even matter, given that he managed to survive and live a seemingly happy life with his cat Conrad? He never complained about doing poorly. Klaus smiled. Maybe he could publish a poem or two, just to see what would happen. What was the worst thing that could happen? Rejection, of course. Did it really matter if he got rejected or not? He would still feel just as strongly about his words either way.
Time for another cup of coffee, perhaps. Did they give free refills? It wasn’t that big of a deal if they didn’t… what appointment had whisked off Jean-Michel so quickly?