WriteOnFightOn Life Lessons 9 years later I finally met Tim O’Brien

9 years later I finally met Tim O’Brien



~This is a new post~

This post is dedicated to Samantha Josephson 

Sometimes you only get to meet a person once or twice and you don’t think about them again until you see their face on the news and the news tells you they’re dead and you can’t stop thinking about them alive and hearing their voice like on the day you meet when they told you about their future plans and their eyes and voice pulsed with electric life. 


Last Thursday I met my favorite author ever. The man who taught me more about storytelling and writing than anyone else– Tim O’Brien.

If you have been reading WoFo for awhile you may be familiar with my admiration, my fandom for O’Brien and his award-winning novel–The Things They Carried.

Also, you may be familiar with my story, An Incident on North 20th Street, where I was alone on a quiet Philadelphia street with Tim O’Brien and hesitated and lost my tongue and chickened-out and rushed by him as if I didn’t recognize him.

For nine years I’ve lived with the fret of almost meeting a hero. Almost.

But on Thursday night, in a dark auditorium at Ocean County Community College–I braved up.

For 45 minutes, in a tough, smokey voice Tim O’Brien told stories of raising his two sons, stories about Vietnam foxholes, and stories about letters he received from readers. Some stories made him laugh. Some made him mad. Others made his voice and chest quake with sadness.

Afterward, he went outside, smoked a cigarette, came back in the now lite auditorium to sign autographs.

As he sat down, a voiced boomed through the speakers announcing due to the large crowd, Mr. O’Brien would not be taken pictures with anyone.

I waited close to an hour for the line to dwindle. I needed a few minutes to tell Tim I have been waiting nine years to meet him.

We shook hands. I gifted him a Write on Fight on bookmark, then he signed my my Write on Fight on bookmark, I told him I was a teacher and a writer and nine years ago on a cold Philadelphia street almost met him.

“Why didn’t you?”

“I was chicken shit.”

He laughed. “Well, let’s not wait nine years to meet again.”

We shook hands, shared a smile, and parted ways.

I ascended up the auditorium aisle, through a set of double doors and out into the warm March night. Something didn’t feel right. I wanted more. I’d been waiting nine years for this. I was grateful to meet him, to shake his hand to give him a Write on Fight on book marker, receive his autograph but I wanted more.

I felt I deserved more.

Sometimes you only get to meet a person once or twice…

I turned back through the double doors, down the auditorium aisle to the table where Tim O’Brien still sitting, talking to a man with a gray pony tail and a black POW/MIA t-shirt.

I waited until he shook the man’s hand and wished him well and they parted.

Tim turned to me. Smiled.

“You’re back again?”

“I couldn’t leave without getting a picture with you. I’ve waited too long.”

“Nine years,” he said.

I handed my phone to a women with a name tag standing next to the table.

“Excuse me, can you please take a picture of Tim and I?”

“I’m sorry. No pictures.”

“I know. Can you please take a picture of Tim and I?”

“Okay.”

She took my phone. And this happened.

 

We shook hands again, shared another smile again, and parted again.

Then I climbed the auditorium aisle again, out the double doors again, crossing the parking lot to my car, and drove 52 miles home.

Smiling.

Grateful to have the opportunity.

Sometimes you only get to meet a person once or twice…

Be well,

Jay

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