He and I meet the following Saturday. The crowd has thinned a bit; perhaps due to waning days of summer. Mr. Charles Smith is his cheery self, waving to me across the long expanse of the building. I hesitate to stop and buy a dozen eggs beforehand. I know our business is more important. Today I’ll see the drafts of Mr. Smith’s book he’s aptly named Gems of Love.
We greet each other with a hug this time. We are already friends. First I inquire if he has any new paintings on display and he points to a group to the left of him. Sure enough, examples totally different from the figures and objects I’d seen the week before. This group gives examples not unlike those of Jackson Pollock. The kind everyone thinks s/he can accomplish by throwing paint from a brush and watching it land somewhere on the canvas. A mishmash of colors. Yes, I definitely can identify with the blues and greens I see. Surprisingly, Mr. S shows me the difference between these and the ones a short distance from where we stand. Double paintings. Turn either side and voila! another painting. The one I select as my favorite shows beautiful blues and greens; the other side reds. Again these were in his self-crafted frames.
Sitting down again, he tells me about the latest having been shown at an exhibit a month before at the Architecture School located on Capitol Street in Jackson. He pushes a brochure into my hands. He then begins to explain about other public displays he’s had.
Finally, he settles down to show me his drafts. He pulls out one from a boxy bag sitting beside his chair. He opens a well-worn manila envelope and pulls a thick sheaf of papers. Good, not too much to edit. As I look over the pages, well typed and paginated, another envelope is handed over. And another. And another, until I’m managing six envelopes in my lap. As I open each one I realize two hold examples of poetry written as greeting cards, all folded in shapes he desires. The outside of each has some colorful drawing. I call them greeting cards, and surely the greetings are different, rather passionate, as though one person expresses his fondness for another, a deep longing for the other. I’m struck by the thoughts, so intimate and meaningful.
I’m overwhelmed at what I’ve been given. “Mr. Smith, I can’t tell you when I can finish these. There is so much here.” I begin to feel I’ll let him down with my braggadocious air of the week before. “You know I’ll be teaching a class once a week for the fall . . .” The feeling of failure begins to overwhelm me.
“I know that. Take it all. I trust you. When you can, look at it and tell me what I need to do.”
With a smile, a load of manila envelopes clutched to my chest, I leave hoping against hope that I can accomplish what I said I would and make Mr. Charles Smith happy.