Friday, June 03, 2005


Tonight Smurf wanted to go borrow "Lost in the Woods" from the Harold B. Lee Library and watch it for his final night in Utah. Wiggle picked he and I up and we drove to BYU. We walked through the Wilkinson center and I decided to go pick up some soup at the Cougareat because I've been feeling sick today. I told Wiggle and Smurf that I would meet them in the glass atrium at the library, and so we parted ways. I picked up two servings of soup at the Cougareat because they were half-off. One minestrone and one potato. I gingerly walked (tonight was the last night of EFY and there were teenagers everywhere) from the Wilk to the library, soup in hand, and sat down on the grass outside the glass building where I thought Wiggle and Smurf would be able to spot me. And spotted I was.

Enter Barbara Hall.

Barbara Hall was a short, very elderly lady with short grey hair in a classy blue dress suit with a white scarf. She was leaving the library when she spotted me sitting on the ground in a blue sweatshirt and beanie. She jokingly asked if I was a vagabond and started to have a conversation. I smiled and made polite responses as I sat eating my soup. This woman was brilliant, but a little lonely and quite possibly a little insane (just the way I like my people). She quoted Russian literature and Shakespeare and classic old songs. She had so much knowledge to share with me that my mind felt like a sponge being thrown into the Pacific.

She asked cutely if I had a girlfriend or had been here dancing with the EFY kids. I grinned and told her I hadn't. She asked me if I had ever had a girlfriend. It was all very amusing because this was coming from an old woman I had never known. I smiled again and told her I had dated several girls in high school and a few in college, but never had a steady girlfriend...

Then the conversation took several turns before she asked me to dance with the quad outside the library at BYU.

I thought for just a second, and figured it couldn't hurt anything, and I'm gay so I really wouldn't mind. So we danced. We danced the Cha-Cha and the Swing and the Waltz for a good while right outside the library in Brigham's Square. We were both having the time of our life. EFY kids started staring and whipping out their cameras and taking pictures of us.

Even without music or a ballroom, it felt like we were Fred Estaire and Ginger Rogers, something out of a movie. We were off in our own little world, an elderly lady and an 18 year old kid. It was very surreal and quite the spectacle to behold.

When Smurf and Wiggle walked out of the library, they stared in bewilderment at the two of us dancing and then walked by into the Wilk to watch and wait and talk to Smurf's EFY counselor friends about how they were waiting for crazy friend Pinetree to get done dancing in the quad with a woman who was probably in her 70's or 80's.

The lady asked me to walk her to her car (a Starsky and Hutch special, yellow and brown) in the twilight, so I did. Smurf and Wiggle were a little surprised when I left and took off after a few moments of waiting. Barbara and I talked for another while about everything from geneaology to foreign relations to her own life. She was captain of the cheerleading squad in high school and her boyfriend was the student body president. She reminisced about how they had ruled the school together, and then how later she met her husband at BYU and how she had served a mission in Russia and how they had children and grandchildren and how her husband had died several years ago. She said that BYU had such a beautiful campus now and compared it to the Garden of Eden.

She had reams of ecclectic bits of paper in her car and in the folder she carried. Written on the bits of paper were copious notes on things like random peoples' geneaology, answers to various questions she had which she had looked up at the library, notes to herself of things she wanted to do, quotes from literature, clippings from newspapers, etc. I was amazed with this woman and these papers that told me about little pieces of her life. To be honest she was mildly insane, perhaps out of loneliness, but also beautifully in tact. She even told me at one point that if all her papers were gone, it wouldn't make much of a difference.

Mid-conversation and as she was showing me some more of her papers, she asked me if I needed to be getting anywhere and I reluctantly answered that I had some good friends waiting for me, but that I wasn't in a hurry. She kindly bid me farewell and shooed me off telling me it was nice meeting me and that most people were in a real hurry all the time these days. It's true and I felt a little bad for that. I really was fascinated by this charming old lady and could have talked to her for a lot longer.

I got back to the Wilk and realized that Smurf and Wiggle had left so I walked home. I couldn't help but smile and giggle to myself about everything that had just happened in the last 45 minutes. I'm glad Wiggle and Smurf saw some of it in person because otherwise I'm not sure I would have been able to convince myself that such a thing had really happened.

All in all it made life feel a little more tangibly beautiful, tender, and benevolent. Precious.


Given said...

I love that. I sounds like it should be in a movie.

Tolkien Boy said...

I had an experience like that once. I met a lady who talked for me for a good two hours about how she had single-handedly overthrown the bishop's storehouse and oversalted the applesauce they were making. They didn't know what to do, so they made a special apple-flavoring substance for cookies and cakes.

Garrulous old ladies are the best.