Okay, so this was going to be something different. Klaus normally wrote all of his poetry in the solitude of his apartment, in a specific place, in a certain chair, sometimes even in a particular position and with a particular drink – one could almost say that Klaus had things that he was rather particular about. Today, therefore, was an entirely different experience for him. Not only was he not in the normal place in his apartment, in his usual chair in the position he liked to sit in, and with his favorite drink, but he wasn’t in his apartment at all!
Rather, he was sitting at a small table in Bryant Park, looking around a little, feeling a bit nervous. What was he doing here, trying to write? This was not his writing environment. His writing environment was fixed and his time for writing was fixed. This was not, as it were, the time or the place to be writing.
The weather – at least he could somewhat depend on the weather to be nice. For the most part, around this time of the year, the weather was fairly reliable. It was a little bit on the brisk side today, so he had on his woolen navy style coat. Coupled with a long sleeved collared gray cotton shirt and a pair of jet black non-pleated trousers purchased specifically for this occasion, Klaus felt he was perfectly ready now.
Criminy, what was the big deal about this, anyhow? This was a beautiful Sunday, and he had come out to do a little writing of poetry. There must have been at least a hundred people who were out here, also writing. Okay, perhaps that was a gross exaggeration – but at least half a dozen people were also looking down at notebooks, with pen or pencil in hand. Though for a moment, he really thought the woman in the brown petticoat was holding a quill pen, it turned out that she was holding a fountain pen to which she had affixed goose feathers. This was done either out of sentimentality, Klaus decided, or lightheaded silliness. There was no good logical reason to affix a feather to a pen. It certainly didn’t have much aesthetic appeal. Perhaps the person holding the pen held differently on this, but as for him – well, it was one ugly pen to behold. True, he thought to himself, there were numerous cliché expressions regarding beauty and the eye of the beholder, at least one of which had made it onto the television in the 50’s in the guise of one of the greatest television programs ever produced.
It was still an ugly pen.
The Grand To-Do
So what, exactly, was the grand to-do about his being in the park? Why was it such a matter of fuss and excitement that he had actually gone out to a department store and spent real money on trousers such that he would have them for this occasion? Well, it was the real change, perhaps. The change from staying inside all the time when he was doing his writing, and keeping it all to himself, to maybe even sharing it with someone beyond his closest friend in the world. Who else would appreciate this breed of strange poetry?
“Are you really supposed to start sentences with the world ‘and’?”
The voice came from behind him. Klaus nearly jumped out of his chair. Was anything dropped? No, everything was still not dropped. Rather, he hadn’t dropped anything in the process of being thoroughly frightened by this random voice that came from behind him.
“I’m sorry, did I startle you?” This could have been a good opportunity to run away. It was also a good opportunity to turn around and discern from where this strange voice was coming from. As his life was not a popular television program from the fifties, it was not a random disembodied voice that would tell him to do something horrific to his neighbors, or to carefully break into their apartment and rearrange their furniture according to an arbitrarily selected geometric pattern.
Who was that?
It was a woman, a female person whom he had never seen before in his life, to the best of his memory. At best he might have seen her in passing – along with millions of other people in this beautiful city that he lived in. Perhaps he shared a cab with her without realizing it when he visited Paris a few years ago? He had wanted to have a look at a few sites one day, and got into a cab with someone else who also wanted to go to a few places, though not the same few places he was going to. That, of course, would have been a bit too much of a coincidence.
Klaus finished turning around and looked at the person slightly hovering over his shoulder. She took a step back. “Were you…. were you reading what I was writing just now?” he asked, dumbfounded. This was a question that almost needed not have been asked, only it was along the same lines of the infamous question, “You’re home?” As she had attempted to correct some of the grammar in his poem, it was fairly obvious that she had been reading his poetry over his shoulder… or at least this poem.
“Oh, ahm, yeah, sorry…” said the woman shyly, covering her mouth after apologizing. She was wearing a long sleeved white sweater with a small embroidered daisy on it, with a black windbreaker . She had on a black denim skirt that almost touched the ground, and looked almost the same color as her oval-shaped glasses, which strongly contrasted with her fair skin and hair. She wore her hair in a pony tail, as it was quite long enough to do so. “I was walking by and stopped because of how nice your… handwriting is.”
Klaus’s penmanship was not often an issue up for debate, as most of his interactions with other people came through the means of the telephone, in person conversations, or typewritten letters or e-mail messages. It was the rare person who got to see his handwriting, which was exceptionally nice from years of practicing writing rows of letters. “Thank you,” he said. He didn’t know what else to say. Was this all? Was the conversation over? Could he get back to writing now, or was there going to be more talking with this total stranger?
“Would you mind if I had a look? At your poetry, I mean. It looks so nice.” Klaus was taken aback by the question. So much so that he moved back a little bit in his seat. “Could I even, I don’t know, ask you who you are first? I’ve only ever shared my poetry with anyone once, and that was, ahm, fairly recently.” Klaus thought back to Amy’s Bread, the coffee he had with Jean-Michel, and how much Jean-Michel seemed to like the poetry.
“I’m Sandy,” the woman said, her hands holding one another behind her back.
“Klaus,” he said, and stuck out his hand.
“I’m sorry – please don’t be offended, I don’t shake hands with guys.”
“You don’t…. shake hands… with guys? I can assure you that I don’t have the cooties, and have been cootie-free since at least the third grade. I got the cootie shot, you know.” Klaus raised one eyebrow at this idea. Not shake hands, indeed! The idea was preposterous. It was hardly civilized! He wondered how she would like to spend a quiet evening together… what? The last idea didn’t seem too congruous with the other thoughts that he was having.
“Yeah, I’m sorry. It’s a religious thing. Please don’t be offended. Do you mind if I sit down?” she said, sitting down.
A strange way to meet
“Go… right… ahead,” Klaus slowly said, watching as she sat down. “So… can I see? I’m so interested now, you don’t understand.”
To say the least. Klaus wasn’t even in the general vicinity of understanding this person, where she was coming from. One would think she came from an entirely different planet. She looked like one of those people that he and Jean-Michel had seen while people watching
in Amy’s Bread, only her hair was much more realistic. Maybe that was because it was real hair, he thought to himself as he tried to figure out what to say. Why not?
He gave the small notebook over to Sandy, who started reading the poems from the very first page. Oh, what have I done, he immediately thought. She’s going to hate them. What was I thinking giving this person access to my personal feelings and thoughts and secrets? Why is my phone ringing? The latter question being one which had to be answered without much delay, he looked at the phone display and saw that it was Jean-Michel. “Excuse me for a minute,” he said, and then stood up and answered the phone call.
“Jean-Michel?” he said.
“Hey, Klaus. Just wanted apologize for not calling sooner.”
“Why should you apologize?”
“What, did you forget, too? We were supposed to be having coffee right now, remember?”
“Ahm… oh, yeah.” He was supposed to be having coffee with Jean-Michel. How had this slipped his mind? Never mind. What curious timing. Just when he was about to have a decent conversation, too. With someone he didn’t really know, that is. He had many perfectly decent conversations with Jean-Michel, but he didn’t have so much interaction with people of the non-male gender. Oh, this was just a little bit on the awkward side.
“So, ahm, what… did you want to meet now?”
“Can we make it in an hour? I think I might be on a date right now. I’m not entirely sure. You know how much experience I’ve had with this lately.” Everyone, not just Dr. Rosenbaum, knew exactly how much experience Jean-Michel had been having with that aspect of life lately – pretty much none. Klaus looked out of the corner of his eye at Sandy, who was still reading his poetry. He was feeling slightly silly for having given the notebook over to her. This was most certainly not a date, and given what her viewpoints on man-woman relationships must have been, there was no way that there would have been even a chance of getting a date with her.
“Yeah, sure, an hour. Sounds good. See you then.” He hung up the phone and walked back over to Sandy, who seemed quite intently focused on his poetry. That was, well, awfully nice of her, not that he had any clue why anyone would really want to read something that he had written.
“This is really great stuff you have here, Klaus. I really like it. How long have you been writing poetry?”
Klaus fumbled around some words while he tried to think of what to say and sit down at the same time. “About…. a long time, I guess. I don’t know. I’ve always been writing poetry. Writing in notebooks like that one has only been the last, ahm, five or six years or so.” For the sake of posterity, of course. Because there was such a likelihood that anyone would ever care about his written work, ever. What was that thing that Jean-Michel had said about self-esteem?
Sandy closed the notebook and gave it to Klaus. “Thank you for letting me read some of your poetry.”
“It was my pleasure…” he began to say.
“It was nice to meet you, Klaus. Maybe I’ll see you again.”
Well, Klaus wanted to say, the likelihood of that would be drastically increased if there were to be an exchange of phone numbers, or the like. While he was thinking out the possibilities, Sandy had already gotten up from her seat and started to walk away.
“It was nice to meet you too!” he called after her, but he wasn’t sure if she had actually heard him.
Not that it would matter much, really.