My Friend Mark
March 2006. Pleasant, windy day. The two young men, Mike, 26 year-old English
teacher at an Oakland high school and his twenty-five-year-old best friend Mark,
who works as a manager at an Oakland Tire store. They have known each other for
four years. Both live in a residential area of Oakland. They are approaching
the Angela Jasmine Apartments way over on the east side of town. The area is a
bit run down. A lot of elderly live in this building. They are going to visit
88 year-old Regina Nesmith, who lives on the third floor.



Mike: (still in car) Something different, huh? We're always trying to find
something creative to do. I know "creative" is your forte. How about this?
You don't like poetry the way I do. That's how I met Regina, through Carl from
the Culturebound Poetry Club.

Mark: Good ol' Carl. He does nothing but eat, sleep, and drink poetry. I
don't know how he does it. I don't know why he kept asking for my phone number.
I forgive you for leaking it out to him. When he calls he talks my ear off. I
don't know why he wants to talk to me for so long. I'm not you. And I haven't
the patience for poetry like you. Besides, he's too old, eighty-two.

Mike: You're as young as you feel. He is in remarkably good shape for his age.
And so is Regina, who you're gonna meet right now.

Mark: I'm not crazy about talking to old people. I like young, energetic,
on-the-go people around me. I don't want to get old before my time.

Mike: Oh, just be a little patient. Young, old, rich, poor, educated,
uneducated, you have to talk to them all. Where's your sense of humanity?

Mark: It's fine, thank you, but I'm allowed my preferences. I don't hate.
Just like young faces around me. Sorry.

Mike : Well, come on. Regina's waiting.

Mark: So, you met Regina at the poetry club?

Mike: Yes, that's right. Carl and Regina are very close.


They are climbing the steps to Regina's apartment, 302. They knock.
Regina answers quickly. She is looking elegant in a new black dress that was
given to her by her sister, a multi-colored kerchief around
her neck, which makes her look mysteriously ten years younger. This elegance is
in contrast to the quaint appearance of her apartment. It is neat and clean.

Regina (at the door): Hello, boys. You don't mind if I call you "boys," do
you? You're so much younger than I. Mike, you're beautiful for coming. I just
got off the phone with Carl. He told me (as they make their way to her kitchen
table) that you brought over four new poems about the Iraq war and he was
impressed with them.

Mike: Yeah, I'm thinking about the war. You always have to make a statement
about a serious war, if you're a serious writer. I think, anyway.

Regina: Or, make a gesture at the same (sounding unnaturally formal). Do you
have them with you, per chance? (noticing she is neglecting Mark) Oh, I'm
sorry, we haven't met.

Mike: This is him. Mark, my friend. I've told you about him.

Regina: Oh, yeah, sure. I remember. Hi, nice to finally meet you. I suppose
Mike has told you already how we met? My name is Regina.

Mark: Yes, ma'am. I've met Carl. I don't write poetry. And I don't read much
of it, either.

Regina: Carl has run that club for over twenty-four years. I joined it twelve
years ago. He's a great guy. Knows everything about poetry. I put the coffee
on. Mark, you like coffee?

Mark: Yes, very much. Mike and I drink about the same.

Regina: Good.

They are seated at the kitchen table.

Mike: I thought it would be a good idea for you to meet Mark.

Regina: That's exactly why I think you're here. We're not going to make out
(aware this is strangely humorous).

Mark: I'm not the type to sit with old people. I go out with my friends,
including Mike, and I obsess over video games. That's my passion.

Regina: You're a whacko.

Mark: (startled by the epithet) What?

Regina: I'm only referring specifically to your comment about "old people."
Otherwise, any friend of Mike's is a friend of mine.

Mark: I choose my friends carefully. I value who I spend my time with. I like
the fun of the computer.

Regina: Alright, where do you work?

Mark: At Palderson's Tire Store over on Watley. I've been there for four
years. I like it there.

Regina: Are you one of those nuts real into cars?

Mark: Yes, I have done auto mechanic work.

Mike: He has a future in both the store and as a mechanic.

Mark: Right. My father has fixed cars all his life.

Regina: So when you're not in the store, you're playing video games. Is that
the meaning of life?

Mark: I don't believe the "meaning of life" is the right way to classify it. A
man has to work.

Regina: You go from one environment to the other. That's all you do. I
wasn't left off with the milk. You need something to improve yourself.

Mark: Talk to Mike about that. He's the authority on human nature. I think
I'm living my life like any normal young Oakland male.

Regina: You're staring at inanimate objects all your life. That's what I'm
getting at. At work, you have tires and cars all around you and then you go
home and put video games on your play station and computer and watch images
bounce around for hours. That sounds whacko to me.

Mark: (quickly seeking to defend himself) Mike is my friend. Tom is a friend
from the store. I have plenty of time to talk to people. My parents are always
chatting with me. I hardly think agoraphobia is an issue in my life.

Mike: (bursting into laughter) Isn't that clever? Agoraphobia?
Talk about a spontaneous metaphor, Reg. Don't you think Carl would like that?
He's so fascinated by metaphor.

Regina: (trying to correct him) And simile.

Mike: Seriously, though, Mark listens to a lot of music. He's quite normal.

Regina: If you say so. Do you have a girlfriend? (to Mark)

Mark: No, not right now.

Regina: I rest my case.

Mark: What does that prove? I'm not dating right now.

Regina: You're a whacko. A twenty-five-year-old has a girl friend in Oakland
nowadays.

Mark; (taken aback) Not necessarily.

Mike: We better switch the topic to something more neutral. I've noticed that
you're putting Mark on the defensive, Regina. (to Mark, with apology) I forgot
to tell you that she's a bit eccentric.

Mark: Old people are set in their ways. They see things through a set way of
thinking.

Regina: No, that's not true. I understand a lot of people's points of view. I
still lead a very active way of life. I'm always glad to see Mark, for example.

Mark: Try being glad to see me.

Regina: (agreeing to change tack) I have a wealth of experience from my years
at the furniture store. I've held a lot of jobs over the years, but I stayed
there at Goldsmith's Furniture for twenty-three years. That's where I met my
husband.


The conversation continues for another hour, and then the young men leave on
friendly terms to go get a snack at an all-night restaurant.

The End.





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Synopsis
What are the perceptions of old and young? Can we learn a lot from meeting with them and talking to them? How sensitive do each have to be to each other's spirits? I'd like us to explore this issue.
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