“Why did I decide to walk here?” I think as I stroll into to my friendly neighborhood Starbucks, feeling late and arriving not a moment too soon. The door jangles, the crowd assembled from the dregs of the morning rush parts, and in the corner is Morgan Holcomb: an angular answer to Ingrid Michelson’s gentility dressed in a wide black shawl, with auburn hair swept down her back and face fixed in an uneasy smile.
Yes, this might turn out to be an awkward encounter. It’s been about a thousand years since I’ve seen Morgan. And really, we never did know each other past the point of pleasantries and high school Drama of the literal kind. Oh, the high school theatre world: a place we spent so much time circling each other but never really interacting, too busy caught up in the compulsory parade of affection and affectation. In tracing my memories of her, pre-meeting, the thing I remember most vividly turns out to be that her name was always called in role right before mine. Holcomb. Horowitz. Ha ha ha.
That being so, as we order up coffee and casually relegate ourselves to a dusty corner of the store, her words brand her immediately as a friend. She states plainly that she hasn’t lost her artistic bent. That she writes. That the ever-enticing idea of “story” makes her world go round. She tells me she goes to Chapman University and immediately I’m struck by an image of a girl waltzing through the brown leaves and fallen oaks of old time Orange County, paying patronage at old once-movie theatre turned church or shopping for relics that would for others be antiques. Morgan, a self-proclaimed aesthetics person and “lover of pretty things” probably wouldn’t be too opposed to this set of images, facts or fictions aside. We talk of beauty, what makes a person beautiful and agree that folks are kidding themselves to think that attraction not tied up in romantic relationships.
But in terms of Morgan herself, I find kinship most in the visceral imperfections; the plurply-red lipstick caught on her coffee cup or settled on her front teeth, the nervous jangling of her cup, her propensity to talk my ear off. For she seems a person whose richness comes from the mélange of the perfect and imperfect, the high and the low art: the pride in her voice when talking Shakespeare mixing with gushing odes to her love for dogs and all things cutesy and feminine. She’s one who clutches at beauty in Lake Forest California and finds it with only varying success. I suppose she’ll make her own beauty, though, for something about the fearless way she holds eye contact strikes me as impossibly young and precocious and capable. As a version of myself, of all people, of the very idea of “compassionate human” just borne into the world and gingerly basking in the first acknowledgement of how young she really is. A college student, a business student, a citizen of the world. Labels of both pride and suspicion.
And so, our chat too is made of this mashing of the intellectual and the highly personal. We bring old skeletons out of the closet and blow dust off them for the other to see. We dance around topics of old loves and how the future just goes on and on, unfurling like a heavy woven tapestry. She tells me she spent the winter in Munich and I picture the girl at rest on a moving train. She’s a fan of trains actually, and a staunch believer in the idea that “any great story contains a train.” When I ask her why she loves Germany, the response is “it’s a country full of them.”
At the end of a very long conversation we stand outside the doors, swathed in midafternoon sunlight, unable to break the spell of conversation. A couple of hours have passed, and it felt like years; as it often can when rapt discussion taps thickly on the brain. When we finally do decide that yes, we must leave, because, yes, we have places to go and things to do, Morgan, for her own part, leaves me with an abundance of smiles and a promise on her light voice to work on ‘something art’ together. Which I hope we do.