Sometimes I lie. Most of the time, it’s unintentional. Like the time I said I was pretty sure I would never talk to the the poet I met at Black Expo because my tender heart wouldn’t be able to survive hearing him read his poetry to me. When I wrote that, I had not anticipated a call the next day.
But that’s what happened; Yusuf El called me. And he read his poetry to me. And I survived. In fact, it’s as if I was on a hike, enjoying my surroundings, when I came to a small waterfall. I thought it was just a bonus among the other beautiful landscapes I had seen along the journey. Yet as I approached the waterfall, I was compelled to stand beneath it and let it pour over my hot and tired body. The coolness refreshed me and as a wide, open smile stretched across my face, the water splashed onto my tongue and quenched my dry palate.
Yes, I had been in a lonely place when I met Yusuf, but I wasn’t looking for a new companion or friend. I welcomed his call anyway because his book had stirred my heart, and as a writer I know the importance of hearing how your work has touched someone. So I picked up the phone and said, “I’m glad you called.” And I wasn’t lying.
From the beginning, even amidst all of our differences – our age, our nationality (which he refers to instead of race, because we are not defined by the colors that others assign us), our upbringing, our faith, etc., our friendship has allowed both of us to flow like a beautiful river, with varying degrees of depth and speed, but always eager to see what’s around each bend.
Yusuf has taught me a lot in the short time I have known him. The most significant is also the most simple. Pick up the phone. In this world of texting, IMing and tweeting, he urges me to speak to my friends and family. As in verbal, audible communication. To give them the attention they deserve. To offer them more than, as he puts it, the LOLs, BTWs and ILYs . Today a couple of friends needed that attention. Thanks to Yusuf, I picked up the phone. I listened to their heavy hearts and told each of them: “I’m glad you called.”