ACT 1, SCENE 1
EXT. SECOND-STORY ROOFTOP GARDEN – SHORTLY AFTER SUNSET
It’s November 9th, 2016 in Charleston, South Carolina. Up above the city streets on the roof of a wood-paneled restaurant with sunshine-yellow trim, a distraught young woman (early 20s) is approached by a bearded, wizened-looking male (mid-30s). She is shivering between drags of her cigarette and trying to keep her tears hidden.
I was not my best self when I first met Matt Hampton. In fact, there are few specifics I actually remember from that first conversation we held on the ill-lighted rooftop. But what I do remember, above all, is a look from him – head tilted down, that devious little twinkle in his dark eyes over the rims of his glasses. He wasn’t judging me. Just sizing up the situation with a kind of quiet bemusement. For reasons I could not fathom at the time, he had left the warm, alcoholic glow of a poetry reading indoors and ventured out into the chill to talk to me (an unknown). But hang on – who am I exactly? And why does my story matter?
The name’s Georgia, and I’m a writer. I claim the title because I write – music, poetry, short fiction, novels, research papers, recipes, half-finished screenplays, and dream journals. And I write because I believe I have stories to tell. Would you like to know what the greatest piece of advice I ever received was?
It’s this: that history is full of stories; that nonfiction is just as important as fiction; and that in order to understand the present, you must also understand the past.
Now, it’s one thing to be in high school sitting in your freshman year Ancient & Medieval History class next to your best friend, who’s cracking jokes, and then you’re hearing your teacher expounding on the significance of Charles “The Hammer” Martel and his grandson Charlemagne who – to put time in perspective – died in the Year of Our Lord 814. Sure, just another couple of old guys who lived and died twelve-hundred years before you were even a wisp of a thought. But then your teacher gets to talking how Charles Martel was the illegitimate son of a Frankish statesman-turned-prince, how upon his father’s death the realm descended into civil war, and how Charles arose from the chaos as a Frankish leader worthy of following into battle.
So, Georgia, what’s with the history lesson? Where exactly are you going with this? I thought this blog was about 100 Connections?
I tell you what, you’re not wrong. I am here to talk about “connections”. And to me, in order to talk about “connections” I have to go back and finish my story about “The Hammer.” Did I mention his step-mother had him thrown in jail? Well, he escaped. What’s more, he rallied against her and his half-brothers to secure his own rule. Charles then defeated the Umayyad cavalry with great finality at the Battle of Tours in 732 AD, which is where he was gifted his nickname, and started the Carolingian dynasty which was further propagated through his two sons and their sons (Charlemagne became the very first Holy Roman Emperor – a title not bestowed on anyone since the fall of Rome), and so on and so forth.
It’s a very dramatic story, and I’m leaving out a lot of details, but I do know my 15-year-old brain was absolutely riveted in class that day. Never before, and I mean never had history been presented to me in such a human way before. My 7th grade U.S. History class, for comparison, was a complete abomination full of tables of dates and names with no faces. They were dry as sawdust, they were facts and figures with no souls. For me to be able to picture this guy Charles, whose father had just died, whose step-mother hated him so much she wanted him dead (but prison was the next-best thing) – to visualize his rebellion and the reinstating of his rightful rule – was a special kind of magic. I knew then and there that I wanted to be able to paint such pictures with my own words someday. Fast forward seven years, and you’d find me walking across the College of Charleston cistern yard to collect my B.A. degree in History.
Fast forward another year and ENTER Matt Hampton. He wasn’t presumptuous in approaching me that crisp autumn evening three years ago. I sensed an honest desire to connect and to better understand what was upsetting me. Pretty sure the answer I gave was: everything. But Matt wasn’t deterred that easily. So we talked. We talked for hours: politics, poetry, religious wars, blues music. Nothing was off the table. We left the poetry event knowing we’d be seeing each other again soon.
It’s hard not to gravitate towards someone so steady and resilient, especially when you’re down. He was a comfort to me that night, but that’s not even the best part. You want to know the best part about Matt? He stuck around. He’s one of those people that stops time, in the sense that I can’t quite recall what life was like before I knew him. I know, factually, that I’ve been aware of his existence for a little under three years – and I know, realistically, that I would still be carrying on right now if I had stayed home the night of November 6th instead of going out to seek a sense of community. But I also know that I would be lesser for it. If all the world is indeed a stage, and all the men and women are just players, I have to wonder who was writing the script that compelled Matt and his inner fortitude forward into the chill to find me and offer some solace under the stars.
After all of that, can I actually define the word “connection”? Connection is less a spark, more an enduring flame. It is more a piece of string held between two sets of hands than a knot tied taught. It is a choice to establish and reestablish relationships again and again. It is a garden tended daily, but also pruned. Above all, connection is finding the truth in the heart of everyone and loving them anyway.
Georgia Hertz is a musician, painter, photographer, and writer. She was born and raised in the Carolinas but has recently relocated to the shores of Lake Michigan with her partner and her trusty sidekick Obi the dog. Her debut EP of original songs is forthcoming this month. Keep up with her on twitter @thegeorgiamoon and find out more about her creative pursuits at www.thegeorgiamoon.com