|back to Stories||August Wilson|
|I dreamt about August Wilson last night while I was on Amtrak. I’m sure it was because I’m on my trek home to NY from a 2-week Seattle vacation, and the volcano that is my subconscious is burping up all kinds of random Pacific Northwestern images.
I’d never met the famous playwright, but that didn’t stop us from having a strained and somewhat aggressive relationship. For many of the years that I worked at the animal hospital on 15th Avenue East, August Wilson sat across E. Republican at the coffee shop. He usually sat under the covered outdoor spot on 15th, either reading or writing. I never knew who he was until I saw his obituary in the newspapers.
Everyday, on my way to work, August and I would make eye contact. He was regal, quiet and handsome.
On occasion, we wore similar caps; I wore mine when time prevented proper de-greasing of my hair. There were times I would see him engaged in a conversation and, sometimes in that conversation, he would become animated, which was a rare occurrence and a departure from the image that I held of him.
One day, while on my routine and hungover walk to work, I decided to give the man I made daily eye contact with a smile. Not a toothy grin, but a small smile. In a bold statement that took me completely off guard, Mr. Wilson returned a slanty-eyed sneer. It was one of those small events, a matter of seconds, that surprisingly wields an unexpected outcome.
Lips curled, and muttering, I entered the animal hospital proclaiming my newfound hatred for that prick across the street. I’m sure the staff half-listened as I ranted about my recent injustice. Entirely on my own, I decided his response was largely, if not completely, due to the fact that he didn’t approve of my hat, one so similar to his, and felt threatened that two, on one corner, could co-exist. True to form, and in my own impassioned way, I continued to propagate a routine of sneering and being sneered to for years to come.
Shortly before I learned of his death, I noticed the man I had this long-term and terse rivalry with was no longer drinking his daily coffee. I did feel bad that he had died and, after finding out who he was, couldn’t help but ponder the thought that maybe our whole fight was a misunderstanding.
Still... when a friend of mine approached me at The Canterbury with news of the playwright’s death, I replied:
“Oh, we hated each other”
“Why?” She said, her face contorted with confusion.
“He didn’t like my hat”