I am indebted to Maz Iqbal who inspired this conversation.
Let's say you want me to get to know a
of yours. How could you introduce him to me? There are various ways.
One way is you could write about him ie you could share your
experience of him. You could share vignettes
from your experience of him, intending I get them and get
to know him through your sharing.
yes? Of course it does.
In them (or rather through them) I share vignettes from my
experience. Of the vignettes I've already shared, some are quite
detailed recreations. By "detailed recreations" I don't mean
long recreations. It's not my intention to make
long. Powerful conversations don't have to be long.
The following vignettes of five pertinent moments aren't so much
detailed as they're terse. There's no setup, no explanation, no
commentary, no inside information, and no hidden
forbid, they're not meant to be parables ...).
1: Reading Glasses
I'm not expecting anyone to be in his office as I walk by. Especially
with no one inside, his office is a magical place for me - like
is away. It's the space in which the
It's certainly magical when the
is in and
Yet in a way, it's even more magical when the
is away and the space is empty. My
is palpable as I approach the door and peer inside.
He's sitting there, making notes on a yellow legal pad with a sharp
HB pencil. Although I'm silent, he turns and looks at me
standing in the doorway, tilting his head forward to look at me over
the top of his reading classes. Maybe
are exchanged, maybe they aren't. To tell you the truth, I don't have a
What I have is a sense of being instantly included. If the roles
were reversed, if I was working and interrupted by someone at the door
of my office, I might be polite. But really I would be
wanting them to leave.
Not him. I'm included. It's tangible. Am I standing here, eye to
eye with him, for a minute? Or is it an hour? Or is it
eternity? I don't know.
When I pass the office again, it's empty. This time I simply take in
the space. I notice the yellow legal pad. On it is the sharp HB pencil
... and his reading glasses! "He's forgotten his reading
glasses" I think, reaching over to pick them up and take them to him.
I find him in his living room, surrounded by about twenty five other
people. Carefully, tactfully, so as not to intrude, I go up to him and,
when he's unoccupied, say "Here! You forgot your reading glasses", and
hand them toward him.
He reaches into the lapel pocket of his impeccably tailored classic
navy Brooks Brothers blazer, takes out a pair of reading
glasses, and shows them to me.
"I have them" he says, smiling.
I see him standing on the flagstones of the old cathedral. It's an
extraordinary sight. The full noon sun shines through a stained glass
window behind him, bursting colors everywhere, so bright I can't view
it directly, so bright I can't take it in all at once. Although I can't
clearly discern his face at first, it's his unmistakable
profile backlit by colored light pouring forth
from the celestial light show, which stands out. At first, lost in the
timelessness of the sun shining through the cathedral's stained glass
window, I don't realize it's him. But when I do, when I recognize his
silhouetted profile backlit so gloriously by the refracting prismatic
glass, I say (to no one in particular) "It's perfect.".
Slowly I walk over to him, greet him, and reach out my hand. He takes
it. We shake hands. He has a firm grip (not unexpected). We shake hands
up and down a few times - you know, the usual vanilla way
people shake hands.
But then, just as I'm about to let go, just as I'm about to
he does something else, something unexpected, something
delightful. After the third or fourth up and down
shake just when I'm about to let go, he extends his arm, pushing
our clasped hands away from him towards me. Our clasped hands, once
equidistant between us, are now extended further away from him, closer
to me, now about three inches from my solar plexus.
He holds my hand in his grip this way for a few imperceptible seconds
longer, and then he
then he lets go.
It's the first time I've experienced his handshake. In a way, it's like
any other experience I've ever had of him, with or without a handshake:
he leaves me unerringly more towards myself, having been around him,
than I was before.
3: Time Together
I arrive in good time for our meeting. I'm here as his guest. It's a
to be here.
As I enter the room, I gasp audibly. The place is filled with people,
many of whose faces I'm well acquainted with. They're the
legends who deliver
indeed some of whom collaborate
To say I get nervous is an understatement. What's closer to
the truth is I develop a sudden case of severe stage fright.
"O ... K ..." I say to myself, and face my
mounting panic. It's not easy ... but soon I'm mustering enough
verve and audacity to push through it and blend right in.
It's actually not so bad. My panic, not getting the
it craves, quickly dissipates.
He sees me (he's expecting me), noticing me through the throng from
across the room. I wait. Soon he comes over and embraces me.
"OK everybody out!" he calls out loudly. "Lar and I need
some time together.".
Lar is his term of endearment for me, from the Roman
of the house.
The room empties immediately. Now it's just him sitting on a
couch, and me sitting in front of him on a straight back chair. Nothing
else imposes into the space except silence,
and the palpable pregnancy of my unasked questions.
4: Holding Down The Floor
Somehow she's falling. I hear a sickening thud as she hits
the floor. She's probably also impacted herself on a chair or two on
the way down. Did she faint? Did she trip? I don't know. But one
thing's for sure: whatever happened, she's in trouble now.
Instinctively I stand up to assist. But I'm not moving with the speed I
should be moving with, given the severity of what I've just witnessed.
I don't know what that's all about. I'm too slow to pick
up on what needs to be done? I'm assuming someone else
will take care of her? (and no one does).
Then suddenly out of the corner of my eye, I see him
running over to where she's fallen. I mean ... he's
sprinting across the room, covering the distance between
him and her in seconds, his feet pounding the floorboards.
He reaches her and kneels down next to her. She's groaning. I can hear.
She's obviously in distress.
"Don't move, Sweetheart" he says to her ... and then (to no one in
particular) "Somebody call 911" - cool as ice.
He speaks to her, calming her. She's still groaning, but she
sounds as if she's in less distress, now that he's with
her. Soon her groans stop, and he's still with her, still kneeling
beside her, the only one beside her, everyone else now simply watching
him with her.
Then he says to her "You're doing a great job holding down the
After a moment's uncertainty, she laughs, a relieved laugh
which breaks the silence and the tension in the room. Soon
everyone in the room is laughing and relieved.
"You're ... doing ... a ...
great ... job ... holding ...
down ... the ... floor ...
Very soon the emergency personnel arrive and attend to her.
The next day I find myself sitting next to her. She doesn't look any
the worse for wear. We're both listening him speaking from the podium
in the front of the room. In the next break I ask her how she's
feeling. She says she's fine. I ask her what happened. She says she
doesn't remember. She says she remembers him kneeling over her ... and
that's all. I ask her "Do you remember what he said to you?". "No" she
says. "What did he say?". I tell her: "You're doing a great job holding
down the floor, Sweetheart.".
She's quiet, getting it, letting it sink in. Then she says "He said ...
that?". "Yes" I reply "when you were down.".
Wordlessly she turns away from me and looks at him at the podium. I
have a feeling she doesn't want me to see the tears filling her eyes. I
can tell she loves him very much.
With a tray in my hand and an apron around my waist, I'm picking up
empty glasses and taking them back to the kitchen. It's been a great
the space in which the people working with him on a project, can
experience being acknowledged and appreciated. People are standing
around in pairs, in threes, and small groups, talking.
I look around for him. At first I can't see him anywhere. Where
is he? ...
Over in the distance I see a figure seated on a cushion on the ledge in
a bay window. I position myself so I can see around the people in my
way and get a cleaner line of sight. It's him. No doubt about it.
There's no one talking with him. People surround him, talking among
themselves, but no one's talking with him. I go over to him to look for
empty glasses around him to clear away. There are none.
I say "Please may I get you anything?". He doesn't answer immediately.
At first I think he may not have heard me. Then I realize he's
considering my request ... and after a brief moment he
says "Yes thank you. I'll have a Sprite.". "A Sprite coming right up,
Chief" I say.
I return with the Sprite which I've poured into a glass with some ice.
He's still sitting there in the bay window with people talking all
around him but not with him. He looks up at me and I hand him the