[This is the first post in a series entitled Imagine All the People. I do not claim to do justice to the amazing people in my life with these small images of who they are to me. But because I have been given so much, changed so much, loved so much by these friends, family members, and acquaintances, I want to share them with you. These are the people who have helped to make me who I am.]
She walks with purpose, upper body always slightly tilted toward her destination. She greets the day with bright lipstick and sometimes wears it on her teeth, but never for long. Because she is the kind of woman you tell about the lipstick-on-the-teeth. And you will be rewarded with her full, robust laughter when you do. Carmen is a professor, author, mother, and friend, and while teaching me how to write, also taught me how to live kind and to live wide and to live honest.
The thing I love the most about being with her is talking good. Yeah, talking good. I thought there might be a better, more elegant way of putting it, but talking good is it. She taught me how to talk good about people. When I remember Carmen, there is a certain atmosphere that my memory plays back. It feels warm and bright. There is a buzzing, words upon words flying out from us and around us and circling the room only to land lightly on our shoulders and our cheeks. Our words turn into bees busy making the sweet honey of conversation, of authentic dialogue. And we talk good about people we know. We talk good about Ben, how intelligent he is, how we're still reeling from his latest poem; we talk good about Bill Rice, how kind he is, how he can write the pants off any Pulitzer Prize winner any day of the week, how much he knows about good music; we talk good about her kids; we talk good about my mom; we talk good about Hildegard of Bingen; we just talk good. And I am filled with a healthy affirmation of humanity. And talking good leaves a rich and delicious taste in my mouth.
Most of all, Carmen is real. And she thinks I'm much smarter than I am, which is always nice.