I enjoy memories. Lots of things trigger memories for me, but nothing is more of a powerful reminder than a song. Songs allow me to travel back in time and remember people and experiences with staggering, emotional detail. I’ve written about this before (“Whenever I hear your heart talking, it’s a song…” and Songs for learning and performing...), but I always think it is important to write about it when it happens.
Early this week, I finished The Creative Writer's Survival Guide: Advice from an Unrepentant Novelist, a book about writing, which was written by my favorite writing professor from college, John McNally (It was really good!). It made me miss my writing workshops in college and my writing friends. There is a special bond between writers in a workshop. No matter how much protection the teacher provides, it is difficult to write a story, which you pour your heart into, and then hand it over to a group of people for critique. It is a scary process, but you learn to trust the people around you, and you grow as a writer and become more confident in your skills. I made a couple of amazing friends in the process. It is definitely an experience that makes people close. I haven’t found another group like that since, and I really miss it.
When I heard My Name is Jonas on Lithium, I was already reminiscing about college and workshopping, but it zeroed me in on a very special semester I spent hanging out with my friend Tom.
I met him in my second semester of college in my first writing class. He stood up the first day of class and explained (or complained) about how much Tampa sucks. He was opinionated and completely snarky. I liked him immediately.
A few years later in a semester between our workshops, we both ended up in this crazy exit requirement course about consumerism and advertising. It was an interesting class, but the other kids in the class were beyond ridiculous. In particular, one guy had spent a summer living with the Amish, and he mentioned it whenever possible (like every five minutes). He was particularly excited about Amish eggs. Tom and I sat together in the back of the class. Whenever the Amish kid's arm shot up, Tom and I would roll our eyes at each other. It would have made a phenomenal drinking game. We were almost kicked out of class multiple times for our fits of laughter, which usually followed an Amish egg comment.
Each day after class, we’d hang out for hours outside of Cooper Hall. There was a paved parking area for golf carts near this big field where we’d sit on the curb. We laughed about class and everything else. Typically in other semesters, we were always surrounded by all of our writer friends from our workshops, so it was one of the first times we hung out alone. We had always connected and liked each other, but without anyone else around, we grew closer quickly. Our conversations were easy, and we spent those hours together laughing. I don’t know that I’ve ever laughed so much with anyone else and still feel a happy weight in my heart when I think about it.
For fun, we would people watch and add commentary. We tried to one-up each other in an effort to get the other one to laugh harder. Maybe it was something with being writers, but it was hysterical and fun. One afternoon, a painfully nerdy guy walked past us. I think he was wearing a cloak. I looked at Tom, and completely calm, he turned to me and said, “His name is Jonas.” It was so simple, but so completely perfect. We both laughed. He definitely won that day.
I hope that wherever Tom is now, he remembers that day and it makes him laugh too. I loved those afternoons. My Name is Jonas always makes me laugh and think of him.