heather corinna: pure as the driven slush » Blog Archive »:
In college, for instance, on a flight to Oxford-via-Amsterdam in 1990 — back in those halcyon days when there was a smoking section on international flights, and that section was often like a cocktail party — I wound up sitting beside this poetry professor from Iraq. This was a double boon, since previously, I was sitting next to a male schoolmate who had teased me all the way to the airport about the fact that I was a nervous flyer, only to immediately vomit on my feet twice during take-off. So, being able to move at all was a lifesaver. But there I was reading my Blake, preparing for my Big Blake Immersion, and there was this professor reading over my shoulder and sighing blissfully.
We wound up in this amazing 7-hour-long conversation, punctuated by an awful lot of wine and the distribution of many cigarettes; about poetry, art, death, poverty, racism, world peace, love, longing, the whole enchilada. We laughed, we cried, we even yelled once or twice, we held hands. When we parted ways, we exchanged things of great value to each of us, so thankful to have made that connection: I gave him a bunch of stones and crystals I always kept with me for my back (I used a cane for walking for six months in college due to an injury), and he gave me this heavy, woven gold ring. I still have and cherish it: I call it the world peace ring because not shortly thereafter, the first (though technically the second- we’re really in the third now) gulf “war” started and it struck me as so tragically silly that if two strangers, from the U.S. and Iraq, could get along so quickly and easily and talk about difficult subjects so freely and openly, surely world leaders apparently schooled in diplomacy could freaking work it out.