She didn't come to stay
A late Iowa evening. Weekend. Time to hang out with friends till the talk later in the day. Memorial Union at Iowa State is an old building--a Victorian edifice with round, stone columns; its façade punctuated with tall arched windows; a pair of wood half-spiral staircase at the entrance that squeaked under the climbing steps; and mosaic floor with zodiac, buffed under the shoes of hundreds of thousands of students that had passed through there.
Most of the African-American students at Iowa State came from Chicago. Jamila was one of them. She was also there for the talk. We walked together. Then I saw a familiar face, walking towards us, in the hallway. "Are you Maya Angelou?" I asked her with excitement. She answered in affirmation, and looked at the two of us with curiosity. I mumbled something to the effect that I had read 'Why the Caged Bird Sings' and thought very highly of her. There was some small talk and then she moved on.
The reading session with Maya Angelou that evening was enlightening. Her heartfelt conversation that day, and her books made it possible for me to foray in the world of identities, the sense of belonging, and the standards of beauty. This is what great literature is about. It can take you out of yourself and make you look back at everything through the eyes of a keen, detached observer.
Maya Angelou is gone. She didn't come to stay. No one does.
[Photo courtesy of http://www.udel.edu]