Many Hands | #3

I’ll be devoting this piece to the folks in Fresh Corner and in the cohort that have made all the difference. For the record, you’re all wonderful and I owe you all so much. You were just lucky to have been spared from my naiveté, my frustrations, and most of my oversharing (though I do thank and apologize to Chloe and Roselyn). These folks were not.


My boss, Valaurian Waller, showed up to the Boll YMCA on Monday as honorary photographer for the wellness workshop we run with the kids. She took a million fun photos and boomerangs that are going to be fantastic for Fresh Corner’s image, but that was not most invaluable task that she performed that day. We sat near our produce stand that was quite thoroughly overstaffed and waited for the children to emerge, Val and I. During that time, I found a kindred spirit in her; I finally pushed through a self-imposed wall of professionalism. We talked about sci-fi and comic books and the implications of the oversaturation of media and great writing and its consumption and a whole bunch of other stuff that ultimately proved something to me. Even if I’m in the workplace with my boss (a public facility selling food to people that need it for a triple-bottom line business whose bosses won it a Forbes Award); even if I’m in the most bizarre, unexpected place in the world with people the likes of whom I have never met, I can still connect with a kindred spirit. Even if, one day, I could possibly fill Valaurian Waller’s shoes and do as much for this broken world as she does, I can still connect with the intern who lives in a socio-economic and political bubble eight months out of the year and who is only staying on for nine weeks.


Since I’ve arrived in the city, the list of the corniest people I know has refined and doubled in length. The three corniest people I know are in this order from most to least: My mother, my high-school orchestra teacher, and Scarlett Bickerton. The unfortunate truth of the matter is that corny people end up being pretty important people in my corner and I guess that reflects on the extent to which I believe I’m corny and the extent to which I actually am, but anyways, I guess that was a convoluted way of complimenting Scarlett, Tori Vazquez and Mr. Riegel. Scarlett has this one-of-a-kind and profoundly strange habit of going to Meijer whenever she’s upset. I’ve tagged along quite a few times (in varying states of emotional well-being) and I get the sense that a lot of you have, too. The miraculous thing is that it seemed to work. I don’t know why, but being at Meijer never failed to brighten my spirits as well as Scarlett’s. At least, that’s what I thought was making me feel better. One day last week, I was in bad sorts. Scarlett noticed and did this weird thing where she sat down facing me, stretched her legs out, and held the bottoms of her feet against mine. She told me it was supposed to stimulate my central nervous system or something ridiculous like that but the reality was that it’s always been Scarlett, and it was idiotic of me to think otherwise. Damn it if it wasn’t always Scarlett (I hope you’re satisfied with yourself).


You know how people are profoundly kind to you for no tangible reason at all sometimes? Hell if I did before I met Lia Fabbri. I’m sorry Lia; that unfortunate part of you that cultivates compassion from a vacuum sometimes also inspires oversharing from the people to whom you express it. I told Lia how strange I found this quality of hers. I conveyed that for most of my life, I put myself in situations where vulnerability was not rewarded and, in fact, was sometimes punished. I wasn’t sure at all how I was going to react if she chose to take the opposing route. She said something to the effect of “Huh, that’s weird, anyways let’s talk shop” and we were down the oversharing rabbit hole. She has impressed me over and over again, from her ability to make light of even the most saddening and disheartening circumstances to her knowledge of Queer Eye trivia. Seriously, it’s one thing for someone to talk you out of a funk after hours of deliberation and negotiation and quite another to deliver a well-timed one liner and immediately cheer you up. Lia isn’t just a great source of recommendations for greasy-spoon-themed animated comedies. One night, during the first of many Queer Eye viewings, Joy noticed that my face was contorted in concentration as I was typing furiously on my laptop and asked what I was doing. Before I gave even a vaguely concrete answer, Lia asked, “Do you need support?” I declined, but I hoped that she wasn’t bluffing. How foolish I was to think she might’ve been.


One of my friends from UMich works at the Cupcake Station on Liberty, and because cupcakes have an apparently brief shelf life, she always has some to give away. Naturally, she gave me six without batting an eye, and I decided to take them back to Detroit to share. Unfortunately, they weathered being carried in a backpack through a restaurant, the Diag, the bus ride back, and the walk to DeRoy. By the time I’d returned, they didn’t look very appetizing at all. Anyways, I had invited Peggy to hang out and I was trying to brainstorm ways to entertain her, and it occurred to me kind of jokingly to go out and give these cupcakes away to some folks who were down on their luck. I showed Peggy the cupcake catastrophe and then pitched her a myriad of other ideas for how to occupy our time, but her mind was made up. We went out in the rain for an hour looking for people that we could safely assume were hungry only to give away all six cupcakes to one guy who didn’t even say thank you. I had never done anything like this before, least of all on a Saturday, but I could tell immediately that this was right up Peggy’s alley. She shows her selfless passion to help the impoverished in every little way she can over and over again. On one occasion, I watched her offer me a snack-sized bag of chips that she bought unhesitatingly from a kid no older than ten, peddling them on Hart Plaza right before the Ford Fireworks began. I realized that it was never her intention to eat the chips, but neither did it cross her mind to refuse that child. She is stupidly generous with her time, her resources, her energy, and her affections. Even a terribly unobservant shmuck like me caught that.


I know I’m not the ideal roommate. I love listening to loud, obnoxious music to which I sing along at all hours of the night, I’m easily distracted, messy, clumsy, entirely too extroverted, and inconsiderate. I leave the door to the apartment open all the time and seldom lock it. My desire to relax by myself after work or to have a lengthy conversation about almost nothing changes from day to day. Timóthy weathers it all, though. He’s such a sport, and I bet he’s even found redeeming qualities in his dingus of a roommate. I can tell he’s grown tired, though. It’s a little less often that he comes home from work and greets me with his impeccable German accent. He’s only bubbly, energetic, and the fourth corniest person I know 86% of the time these days, whereas in the beginning he was at a consistent 119. My point in saying all this is that I appreciate you so much, Tim. Despite my live-in quirks, I do truly feel that way. Don’t fret, my friend: we’ve only a few weeks left together, and then I will finally release you. You know that the first time I used Timóthy’s name, I pronounced it the way I did with little to no hope that he would know I was referring to Key & Peele’s classic sketch, “Substitute Teacher #1”? Of course, Timóthy came back with a “Preesent.” He even let me put an accent over the O on his birthday card. Timóthy puts up with so much of my garbage. He is so legit, guys. He’s the OG, the GOAT, the real one, all those other acronyms. He even tolerates my stupid jokes. I couldn’t ask for better, and Timóthy, you better believe that I’ll make it up to you.

Also, it was really funny watching you try to chug that stout.

Smooches, my boy.



One thought on “Many Hands | #3

  • July 17, 2018 at 12:07 pm

    Thanks so much, Charles, for taking some time to reach out via your blog to thank those around you who have made a difference during your time in Detroit. It is never too often or too soon to appreciate others, and I’d encourage you to share your blog post with your cohortmates if you feel like doing so and have not already done so. I think that they’d appreciate what you have to say to them!

    One of the parts of your post that I liked the most was the part where you talked about pushing past your own self-imposed wall of professionalism to connect in a very real, very genuine way with someone else. This is such an important realization, and I hope you’ll take to heart how important and significant it really is. Professionalism is important, there’s no doubt about that–but being a real person is also just as important. Sometimes we leave our “real self” at the door when we enter the workplace, and that can have disastrous consequences for our ability to genuinely connect with others. You’ve picked up on a very important lesson, one that I’d encourage you not to forget in the future.


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