Small World, Part VI: Mark

Yes, it’s true…at one time, I was young enough to be a freshman. In 1992, I was a future tadpole set to swim around the big pond of Bruce Hall. I remember waiting outside the building on opening day, mentally ticking away the long minutes until 2:00pm arrived and with it the unchaining of the front doors.

Across the walkway from me was this dude blaring out in the thickest country accent recordable by scientific instruments of the day. His eccentric image was further cemented by the white Gilligan sailor hat he wore. I chuckled lightly and thought, “Wow! What a goofball!”

Little did I know that Captain Cletus here would be my freshman roommate Greg! The two of us got along well. I was an artist, Greg was a musician, but soon enough he wanted to live with a fellow musician. Greg was close to a dude named Mark, a jazz guitarist from Minneapolis who lived two doors down. As Mark’s roommate James and I had known one another for a few years already, we agreed to a roommate swap.

I didn’t see much of Greg after that — he quit school mid-semester to join some country band on tour. I also didn’t Mark that often, either — as he was sleeping with his girlfriend on a regular basis, and their constant presence in bed had a dampening effect on the promotion of any social relationship I had with him.

Many years later (2002) I find in Alabama on one of my regular sojourns to the Yellowhammer State. I was hanging out with Jim, and on our agenda was a visit to the University of Alabama campus where he works. Jim was particularly interested in showing off his office and introducing me to the gentleman with whom he co-taught an English literature class.

In Jim’s stinky office and I see a stranger with curly hair sitting in a chair. Jim says to me, “Matt, I want you to meet my co-teacher, Mark.”

Curly-headed Mark turns and looks me in the eye. Shakes my hand. Says casually, “Matt.”

Then that always-well-timed, invisible lightning bolt of recollection strikes.

Mark’s eyes bulge out of his head. “Matt!” he hisses in surprise!

Yep. The very same Mark from Bruce Hall — the Minnesota jazz guitarist was now an English graduate student in Alabama. Like I’ve said a million times before, what a small world…

I guess it’s time for me to pick up the guitar and blow someone else’s mind in equal measure.