I spotted him working the fringes of our first anniversary party at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art last week — a right swanky affair that was far more enjoyable an evening than a curmudgeon like me deserves.
Anyway, I see the kid, teenager, acting pretty much the way all teenagers do in a roomful of adults. I figured he came with his parents and couldn’t wait to get back home to his Xbox.
It wasn’t until later in the evening that his father approached me.
“That’s my kid,” he said, gesturing to the lad who, upon seeing me talking with his father bolted straight for the door. “He loves your paper,” his dad said. “He talks about it all the time. He asked us to bring him, but he’s too embarrassed to talk to you.”
It was all I could do not to run out the door after the kid.
By then his mother and his little brother and sister had gathered around. If the poor kid was looking at us through the window, he must have been mortified.
“He’s reading all the time,” the dad continued. “Joyce and Hemingway and stuff. I don’t know. Writing. It’s all he wants to do.”
Oh how that brought me back.
I spent most of my youth buried in books, newspaper and magazines, storing up words and turns of phrase. I didn’t know why I was doing it — I didn’t start seriously writing until I was 19 — but that incubation period was as important to my work as anything I learned in school or picked up on a job.
I understood this kid without even looking him in the eye. He was like me. Like a lot of us who string together words for a living. It’s all we want to do.
It is to my discredit that I never got this kid’s name, but I gave his dad my card and told him to have the kid get in touch. If he’s reading this, I really hope he does.
If the poor kid was looking at us through the window, he must have been mortified.
I want to give him a copy of my book, but more importantly I want to give him a reading list, some perspective, the benefit of 30 years of missteps and mistakes and minor successes that began right around the time I was his age. It’s the least I can do for a fellow dreamer.
And fools like us should stick together.