Wandering words, Wandering Mind

The UGLI/Shapiro/Undergrad (library)/Mordor is an interesting place—on one hand, it can be a “cool place to study if you are doing group work or want a louder environment,” or so I say during orientation tours by which I mean you’ll have an entire sorority house screaming about a mixer they just came from—which isn’t bad, but just a fun surprise when you’re a freshman wandering around looking for a seat to read The Odyssey and to cry yourself into an early sleep, and on the other hand, it can serve as an unusual space for a reading event.

I was running from an interview with a friend and knew I was already late; prepping by taking off my sunglasses (yes, it was 7:15pm) and headphones, I jolted through the automatic doors that always open up just slow enough so as to hit me as I slide through, and I moved a chair into the back of the audience. I once again realized how much of a beautiful stereotype/cliche/wonder I am: I flourish as I take off my circle scarf, almost fall off my chair as I get tangled in my harem pants, and gasp as I spill sparkling water on myself, all as I get my notebook out to “take notes” aka write my own poetry for when I get bored, or, more accurately, when I can’t hear writers present their work.

I was not the only cliche around. The speakers went in and out and I was positioned in the far corner, and so most people’s voices blended quite nicely into the already formed ambience the UGLI has. Some voices wafted above the chatter to sit atop like the descant line while others formed the bass line and sent a rhythm through my chest. I thought I was either in a movie or being punk’d. Either way, I came to the reading for two of my greatest friends and for me, their voices shot through the air as if I was their target.

Being distracted by life as I usually am, I noticed when the light bulb went on and off (unexpectedly I might add—no it wasn’t morse code, no it wasn’t timed, no, no, no, just a lightbulb); I noticed when people jumped down the main stairs, colliding on each of the landings; I noticed when obnoxious people walked by, stopped, and then proceeded only after pointing and talking louder about how they were “confused . . . like what is even going on here?”; while I thought it was fitting for a literary reading to be done in a library (because books), it seemed that most passersby were flabbergasted.

“What’s a sugar daddy?”

My attention snapped back to the reading.

This particular reader ended and another arrived at the podium to read a work of fantasy fiction. By this point I was noticeably tired from my day and in full blown free association mode. Why fantasy? What is the value of fantasy? *cocks head* What would it be like to be a young adult author? What aspects of life would you ignore or erase? *stroke facial hair* Why did I used to love fantasy? When did this fascination stop? *stares into the void forming in the corner* Questions came and questions went but my face remained perplexed throughout this person’s story. I quickly wrote a poem about my confusion.

All of a sudden, however, my first friend was at the podium—the announcer was too quiet to be intelligible. I heard the change of voice, the change of posture, the change in the eyes—from everyday into the writerly, readerly position; my friend owned a podium like none other. She was flawless in her delivery, I was absorbed into her poetry: into her words and stories and images and thoughts and, to be frank, her magic.

A while later, another friend (who invited me) took over and had a grace that was unmatched. Although it was now late and people were leaving, my line of sight became unobstructed, and the closer I leaned in the closer I felt my tunnel vision closing in on the sound of her voice. From history and moving into her own work, she presented fact and fiction, blending and mixing, but always remaining lucid, artistic, and full of beauty. Had the audience been not so sober (in any interpretation), I would have cat-called and snapped and hoot and hollered (more than I already did). Goosebumps were a plenty and my face beamed.

There is something so indescribable that happens when watching people you love share their art.

Readings are some of my favorite events to attend. It’s at both comforting and alarming: the creativity that is so present in people around me, and it is in this space where it can be shared, ignored, and proclaimed. I become an audience member and this becoming is overpowering. Words fill my brain, my ears, my mind, my eyes, and my fingers. This page.

So yes. Café Shapiro proved quite the event.

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