Monday, January 21, 2013

The Jolly Scholar

Thwing Center
11111 Euclid Ave
Cleveland, OH 44106
(216) 368-0090

by Beau Cadiyo

I prided myself, for a long time, on the fact that nobody I knew ever died.  It was true - I knew OF people who had died, like Abraham Lincoln and Jesus and Gandhi, but I didn't actually know anyone who had then died after I had met them.  Then, in college, another RA named Frank passed away after a long battle with eating disorders.  I got the news when we returned from summer break.  I wasn't close enough to her to be notified by the family or her friends or anything, but I remember thinking that her curly hair and blue eyes were gone, and her knee-high socks, and whatever spark there was in her body had died.  And life went on.

Google Voice transcribed the message this morning from Edward thus: "Hey, it's Drew.  Mr. So sad.  Smith College.  It, Hi it's me.  I was gimme a call, alright.  Yeah.  Bye bye."  The message itself was so garbled that I couldn't understand him either; what he was calling to tell me was that Frank Malde had hung himself this last weekend.

My favorite story about Frank Malde came after we got back to school after a long weekend - maybe fall break, maybe Thanksgiving.  He'd taken the opportunity to go up to Canada.  Frank was Indian, and had dark skin, and the ability to grow exceptionally long, thick, luxurious beards.  He'd grown his out, and so when he re-entered, he was subject to extra checks at the border because he was brown, had a beard and was traveling alone.  He was carrying his American passport, and when they asked him if he spoke English, he got angry.  He didn't show it, though.  Instead, he smiled a big, absurd, uncomprehending smile, the kind that lit up his face, and nodded his head, slowly, then vigorously.  They called over extra agents and asked again if he spoke English, and the new agents got the same response.  They pulled him out of the car and searched it while he was taken to a containment room.  Various translators kept coming in to try to talk to him, but he didn't respond to any of them; they found nothing in the car, and finally, after four, or perhaps seven, or perhaps thirteen hours, two agents were sitting across the table from him, talking frankly about the situation that they were in.  Frank piped up and asked, in perfect New England English, if he could use the bathroom, which made the agents jump up in shock and berate him for wasting their time.  They then got a lesson in institutional racism, and how to ask better questions beyond whether someone could speak English, and to trust the answers they were given, even if it was a nodding of the head.

When I got off the phone with Edward, I googled The Great Gatsby.  I went to the last chapter and scrolled down to Nick's conversation with Meyer Wolfsheim, and read,

“Let us learn to show our friendship for a man when he is alive and not after he is dead,” he suggested. “After that my own rule is to let everything alone.”

I remember laughing when Frank told his story, laughing so hard that tears streamed down my face, and how Frank seemed to see the whole thing as an opportunity to right injustice - he was just a citizen, making his way back into his country, and the problem was the border guards, and the system.  Then I remembered times at parties and school gatherings, where he was there having fun and was smart and only spoke when he had something interesting to say, which meant everything he said was interesting, and how whenever he spoke up in class, it invariably made the teacher either realize something new about the material or brought the discussion to a halt because there was nothing more to say on the matter when Frank was done talking.  I'm sad that I didn't stay in touch with him to let him know that I appreciated his friendship and the fact that I knew him, and I wonder how many people are out there who I similarly don't express enough appreciation for - people I'm close to, people I care about.

The burger at the Jolly Scholar is surprisingly good - we had one with bacon, cheese, and a bourbon barbecue sauce.  The pretzel roll was delicious.  The real winner, though, is the beer - they have exceptionally high-quality brew for student prices.  If you can deal with being around 20-somethings and feeling like you're out of your element, it's an exceptionally good place to go, and they're not nearly as snooty or expensive as Severance Hall.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your comments.