He sat across the counter from me at the coffee shop, a Blackberry, iPad, notepad, and ornate wooden box (which I learned later was filled with paintbrushes and quill tips) in front of him. His tie thrown over his shoulder, he began writing in the small notepad, while scrolling through his iPad. We sat in silence for several minutes, until he spoke up, asking me about the business card I had affixed to the back of my laptop screen. For two years I have worked freelance from cafes and this was the first time anyone had ever remarked upon my brilliant, but tragically untested marketing strategy.
We talked for several minutes on and off, in between sips and my click-clacking along through various projects. I learned a few small nuggets about him: that he was in arts school, that he was working at a department store around the corner, and that he had his own design projects he was more interested in than school work. He wasn’t sure that he wanted to be in art school. I asked about his work and whether he had an online portfolio. He said he did not, but had a few pieces of work he was hoping to put online sometime soon.
Over the next hour, we exchanged weblinks back and forth and talked a bit about fundraising (since he was curious about the mysterious-yet-absolutely-brilliant business card) as well as the rather simple and preposterous idea of following your own passion. Like a half-drunk sentimentalist, I continually reminded him to continue his own work, no matter what day job he had to do to pay the bills.
We were soon interrupted by a young woman who sat between us conducting various video conference calls one after the other in German (I think). At the end of each call, she waived frantically at the computer and shouted “Bye, bye! Bye, bye!” like she was talking to an infant. At one point she turned her laptop around to show her Skype friend a sweeping view of the parking lot.
When, a few moments later, I saw him pack up his things, I nodded to him and we clasped hands, introducing ourselves for the first time as we said goodbye. He said his name was Isaiah.
Realizing I had no business cards to give him (sidenote: why print 250 of those suckers if I never keep any in my backpack?), I quickly ripped off the one I had affixed to the back of my laptop and handed it to him. Every piece of information was torn off in the process except my email address, cleanly left behind at the top. I reminded him to send me a link to his online portfolio once it was complete. He smiled and stepped out.
That gesture is the single reason why I have begun this blog in earnest, nearly a year after I had considered the prospect. I am left with a singular, ridiculously idealistic thought: that the gesture of tearing off the business card from its rooted home and passing it to the hand of a stranger would ensure that he would remember me and our conversation, and maybe, seeing it as some sort of sign, follow his own creative march towards artistic freedom.
So. Isaiah. If you read this, please send me something of your future.