My ride to Nashville Saturday morning for some reason prompted it to think of Dave Eggers, my favorite author. Ok, not really my favorite. Maybe 4th or 5th favorite. I really could not tell you my favorite since that seems to change daily depending on my mood or what I know of the world in that particular moment. But let’s just say, at that time, in that car, on that ride, Dave Eggers was my favorite.
It had just then dawned on me, during that drive for one reason or another: I am one degree from Dave Eggers. And, at that moment, I wondered if we will ever meet. Is it possible he could even stumble upon my art, or my writing (where, if such an event were to happen I would feel very sorry for him – attempting to endure the nonsense of these words). But he would see them, and realize our mutual friend means destiny. That we should become best of friends. To the point in which I would pop up in his stories, and he in mine- in ways that are so natural, casual. As in the time we have pancakes together and I burn half the batch, or lose half the batter because my elbow bumps the mixing bowl from the counter. That would be an unfortunate breakfast experience he would relate to another event and make it seem more interesting than I ever could. His writing being more detailed and all, with bigger, more descriptive words because he knows those kinds of words so well.
Maybe we could combine forces, my crazy mind and experiences, and his ability to tell stories. Oh what wonderful books we could make!
But back to how he will one day want to meet me – about our destiny, Dave and I.
A few years back, I was at the Lost Boys center of Nashville. For some reason, Nashville had become the location for Sudanese refugees in the Midwest and South to vote for the secession of the North from South Sudan. I went to take photos and try and get a few stories from Sudanese men and women. Luckily my good friend Aguto was there, vice president of the voting-committee none-the-less. A refugee who ended up in Nashville, becoming a good friend after I helped photograph for the non-profit he was in process of establishing: Hope Sudan with my dear friend Alicia.
So it was me, hundreds of refugees, and a few big shots from a few news stations I don’t recognize because I am too pretentious for any news that is not NPR. Aguto escorts me past all the local news channels and cameras, into the building where hundreds of dark black faces are gleaning with hope and joy, bodies packed close together in an organized zig-zag throughout the open room. I was the only white person inside the building without an official CNN press lanyard or government position. See Dave, I know people in high places too.
Aguto tells me to stand next to a group of his friends while he runs outside to coordinate and prepare another group of hopeful voters. I casually start asking the men questions. I’m not too prepared so I start with the basics: “What city in Sudan are you originally from?” “Where do you live now?” “Do you enjoy America?” “Do you have contact with your relatives in Sudan?”
One man is eager to be interviewed. He tells me his name is Lino. He now lives in Atlanta, has been there almost 10 years. I start putting the pieces together. Lino. Atlanta. Atlanta. Lino. The Sudanese have a funny tradition of renaming themselves so I think, it can’t be, there must be so many other Linos in Atlanta. But I ask anyway, “Did you ever have a roommate? A roommate named Valentino?”
“Why yes, He is my roomate.”
I am floored. Shocked. I almost drop my camera in disbelief. I start stumbling on my words, not knowing what to say. Just like the few times I hung out with Michelle Branch, trying to play it cool – but the knowledge that her friendship would mean being one degree from Hanson was all too much for me. I could not handle the pressure. Michelle and I are unfortunately no longer acquaintances even after that one time she came to my house – to my party. My party, she was there, I swear.
He’s THAT Lino. Valentino’s roomate. That time, sorry Dave, I was not thinking of you. I’m sure you are heartbroken. And it is not that Valentino and Lino are more important than any other refugees, for they all have gone through more horrendous things than most of us will ever even witness on television (ok, at least on television in the 90s). But I knew their story, thanks to Dave, and to me, they were famous. I was star-struck.
[If you have no clue what I am talking about, please stop now and pick up the book What is the What. Even if you DO know what I am talking about. Please stop now. My ramblings may bore you to death.]
But Dave, don’t stop reading. I’m telling you how much we have in common. We know the same people, see? We both write about Africa, and injustice, and pancakes. Or maybe I should change that to tacos, yes, we’ll have tacos for breakfast. I’ll call up Lino and we can all talk about Sudan, and Valentino, and refugees. We’ll eat tacos and write about the mishaps that happen over the course of the meal. It would keep us entertained for hours, and that makes great friendships: keeping each other entertained hours on end.
So Dave, will you be my friend? You can’t say no to destiny, you know.