My friend, Eileen, told me this story…
Marcus is a special ed woodworking teacher. He isn’t an intellectual heavyweight, but his practical advice and knowledge of current events and sports draw students to him. It is commonly believed that Marcus, who “gets” kids, was put on earth in order to teach teens to use tools to gain confidence and work cooperatively with others. Parents love him because their offspring are able to make simple home repairs and advise them on trips to home improvement stores.
In his youth, Marcus was the fix-it guy in the Queens apartment where he grew up. He now lives with his wife and children in St. Louis, where he works at an alternative high school. Eileen, his wife, is also an educator, a world literature teacher in the suburbs.
Each summer Marcus and Eileen go back to enjoy the vibrancy of the Big Apple. Marcus and Eileen met at Queens College, so every trip includes a tour of the old neighborhood and a sentimental journey through the campus.
Two years ago, they bumped into Francine, a classmate from their student days. She and Eileen immediately recognized one another and the three of them, all on vacation from home, spent the rest of the day together.
Francine is now a respected poet and a tenured professor, teaching in Kansas City. Marcus hardly knew her; however, Eileen had a solid memory of the slim, serious classmate who was at the top of their class. They had both written for the college paper, and Eileen recalled that Francine received a big grant to study somewhere in Europe. The two could have been closer friends, Eileen told Marcus, but Francine spent all of her time writing, reading and folk-dancing.
Francine never married. She loves to travel to unusual places and enjoys teaching in the English department. She runs poetry workshops and reviews cultural events for papers in Kansas, Illinois and Missouri. It turned out that Francine is occasionally in St. Louis, lecturing or participating in conferences. Eileen invited her to visit when she was in town, and Francine agreed.
In the fall and again during spring break, Francine visited Eileen and her family, with the seemingly passive presence of Marcus, who had little to say to the two well-read women. Francine stayed at a hotel, but she enjoyed discussing books and art with Eileen and got a kick out of Marcus’ projects-in-progress. Francine brought handmade jewelry to their three daughters, who viewed her with cool admiration. What they liked about Francine, however, wasn’t the gifts she brought. It was the fact that she didn’t talk too much. She was a listener.
Eileen told Francine that there was a man Marcus wanted her to meet. Harold, a widower, was Marcus’ friend, a fellow woodworker and owner of a large hardware store. On the surface, this fellow was not an obvious match, but it was Marcus’ idea. Eileen joked that Harold had a library card and knew how to use it. When Francine raised her eyebrows, Eileen assured her that Harold not only read books, but also went to museums. His wife had passed away more than five years earlier, and he was ready to meet someone.
Francine finally agreed to have lunch with Harold. It would be a new experience, like visiting a foreign land. A man who owns a large hardware store, like a bartender, probably has seen it all. She wasn’t disappointed. Harold’s anecdotes were insightful and funny, yet his eyes teared when he talked about his late wife. His view of Midwestern life was thoughtful and provocative. He was a talker; she was a listener, and she felt a poem coming on. She read it to Eileen that evening.
Harold wanted to know about Francine, so they decided to walk, and a couple of hours passed quickly. Harold had never dated a poet, and Francine had hardly dated at all. A relationship takes time, and they live in different cities. But they both knew there was something worth pursuing.
Now, if things progress, Marcus the matchmaker worries that his buddy will close his store and move to Kansas City. Eileen is optimistic.