After seeing a movie with a friend, I went to a café on Saturday night. A band was playing and the place was crowded, so while S went to the restroom, I scouted out a place for us to sit. I found two spots on a couch in the back if we sat next to the guy currently there, so I took a seat.
The man was sitting on his end, a figure in black leather and chains. Maybe he was a metal or punk type, with his boots, piercings, fingerless gloves, red hair pulled back into a dreadlock-like ponytail, with other strings hanging off it. He was hunched over, and I couldn’t tell how old he was at first. He looked tough.
Then I looked over and glimpsed what he was doing: he had a large pad of paper on his lap and was working on a line-drawing with a pen, covering the page with intricate and elaborate black lines, some kind of dark gothic fantasy art (I would soon learn it was an homage to H.P. Lovecraft) with tiny skulls and bodies and trees and creatures and such, all painstakingly woven together in one cohesive piece. I wish I was better at describing his style of art… it’s difficult to tell you just how cool it was. I wanted to keep looking and studying all the details. And I felt the urge to say something to him. And yet..
He looked unapproachable, toughened, closed. He might just grunt or growl or ignore me. Oh well, I decided to risk it anyway. Now I could see he was young, in his 20s, so I said, “I just have to tell you that that is amazing. Are you an art student?”
It was then that the castle walls of my stereotypes and pre-judgments came crashing down. He turned to look at me with his deep blue eyes and smiled, and then I could see the vulnerable soul sitting next to me, a puppy dog of a man-boy hiding behind his appearance. He told me no, he wasn’t an art student but wished he could afford to go to art school, and then introduced himself to me and shook my hand. That was the beginning of a sweet 30-minute conversation with W, who was 24, taking occasional classes at a community college, living alone and probably lonely, and coming to this café to draw now and then.
My friend S came over to sit with us, and since she’s an artist as well, I knew the conversation would be good with all the back-and-forths of shop talk. We gave him tips and resources for free artist workshops and sketching groups around town, and he eagerly pulled out his big portfolio, which had a lot of impressive gothic fantasy art, and some pieces dating back to 8th grade and high school, other styles as well, some color pencil drawings, scenes and faces. He was very talented, and it wasn’t hard to compliment his work.
When we left, we wished him luck and gave him encouragement… he’d said he came to this café often to draw, so maybe we’d see him there sometime. W returned to his drawing.
And me? I was left with this wonderful sensation of a prejudice/judgment/myth shattering around me. I’d had to leap over something to take the chance to speak to that tough-looking guy, taking a chance and then getting to receive something so simple– an unexpected, sweet conversation, and a connection with a tender soul just wanting to make something amazing. I’m glad I leapt.