before they leave…tell them how they move you.

I am standing on line with three books by one of my favorite authors.

Earlier, she sat on a panel with three other writers talking about characterization and what makes a narrator likable or not. I was sitting in the front row with my jacket on my lap and backpack in front of me. I am excited and nervous to be in the same room as this writer.

As I wait in line, I think about what I can say to make her my best friend. I can’t tell her how great a writer she is. She knows this. How to personalize a compliment in such a way that it is full of words that have never gone together. I want to lift her eyes toward me and make her forget about the long line of people behind me. I want to tell her that I am a writer too and perhaps she could offer me words of wisdom. Notoo vague and demanding.

Suddenly, it is my turn and she looks at the yellow post-it we were all instructed to write our names on (to speed up the wait time). Her eyes never glance at me as she copies my name into her book followed by: Best and her name. In the seconds it takes for her to ink up this book, I think of ways to let her know how I understand the solitude of writing and how reading her stories make me want to turn my poems into chapters and write my own fiction.

I say some of these things, but she does not become my best friend. I never invite her for supper (like I did two decades ago in a five page letter I wrote to Janet Jackson, which I handed to her bodyguard at her concert in New Jersey). 

Living in New York, there are writers and creative folk all around me. Oftentimes, regardless of how many books or poems they have published, if their words stir me up, I become captivated and sometimes tongue-tied and shy. How silly, right? We are all just humans. But to me, when people are able to disrobe themselves through writing or music, art or dance, I am reminded to continue. We inspire each other. Or….this is what we should be doing.

So, get loud with the ones who remind you how pungent words and sounds and bodily gestures can be. Don’t wait for them to look up at you. Just speak.

More and more humans are dying early. Too soon, we wail.

Before they leave, tell them how they move you. So they can hear your love before it’s too late.

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