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Oftentimes when someone talks about a person that significantly influenced them, usually that person is a friend or someone that is close to them. However the person that influenced me greatly is a stranger I met at Rockville Town Center.
It was around a summer ago, I would always travel to the center stage in Rockville Town Center for a place to hone my bboy (breakdancing) skills. There I would practice with my friends and at the same time hone my skills. However one day, I remembered there was a crazy white guy that spazzed out around the stage. But during the time it was raining, just be chance, he happened to come by again. And together, we practiced together for three and a half hour. Turns out that the guyââ‚¬â„¢s name was Lincoln and he studied at Montgomery Community College.
Those of you who were at RTC Summer Sessions about a week ago remember that crazy white guy that was spazzing out around the stage. Well, yesterday, as I was practicing out in the rain, just by chance, he happened to come by again. And, together, we sessioned for about 4~4 and a half hours. Turns out his name is Abraham and he's a Philosophy student over at MC.
Though he doesn't dance very well, Abraham has a deep and personal understanding of the subject. And though, when I first saw him a week ago, I was under the impression that he was heavily inebriated or just crazy, hearing his thoughts kind of clarified everything for me. We'd have small conversations in 15 minute intervals which were, at first, very one-sided. He had a debilitating stutter that butchered all of his sentences but, when I was able to suture his fragmented ideas back together, I usually found what he said to be quite profound. Don't get me wrong, he's actually quite well-spoken, articulating in words just as high in caliber as the ideas they convey. But, honestly, given his knack for looking like a crazy dude, I was embarrassed to be standing on stage with him. But I felt like there was a lot to be understood about Abraham. So I stuck around. Between our conversations, I'd browse the square to see if anyone was staring, try a set, get up, pace in circles, glance at Abraham and, before I knew it, he'd already have something new to tell me.
Slowly, the conversations became less and less slanted. I made periodic comments, which became verbose points, which became long dissertations, and then, after a while, I would stop to say something just as often as he would. By the time he left, we'd ingrained every iota of dancing knowledge we had in each other. So, feeling that it's of great value, I'd like to share with you what Abraham shared with me:
First was a long overdue introduction. He told me his name, I told him mine. He asked how long I'd been dancing. I said three years, and he said three years, also. That was the first among many commonalities that we shared. He asked me where I learned to dance and I told him that I was self-taught. He said he taught himself from watching Chris Brown videos. I doubted him for a second because I hate Chris Brown, just as I hate any ass-fed pop star who propagates bad dancing. But as not to discourage Abraham, I let it slide. He went on to tell me that he goes to MC. He said he's 21; I said 17.
I broke it off at that point, because I honestly didn't desire to know any more about this guy. I preoccupied myself at the far end of the stage, throwing down some tops to the sounds of Fu Schnickens and Royce. Abraham seemed to enjoy those songs, as he'd keep requesting to repeat them. I told him, "whatever". By the end of the day, we'd probably listened to "What's Up Doc" a hundred times over.
He asked me to teach him 6-step. I obliged. He couldn't do it. He tried to teach me some Chris Brown choreo. I hesitantly agreed. Everything I did, he said, was wrong and, without prompt, cataloged the "meanings" of each move, drawing parallels like "pointing at a fine ass chick" to inspire what he believed were latent emotions inside of me. Honestly, I just didn't care. I told him I should probably just watch the videos myself and broke it off again.
Shortly thereafter, he pulled me over again. He told me dancing is about telling a story. I just nodded. He made a reference to a Chris Brown video. I doubted him a bit more. He told me that he'd sometimes arrange objects around his room and, with music to guide him, interact with each one. I nodded again, but with a little less skepticism. The whole "telling a story" thing is just pretentious, but the latter was...a little crazy! Only someone with absolute conviction that such an absurd practice worked would do so. So, again, I gave him the benefit of the doubt. He told me a story: something along the lines of "I'm trying to reach something high, then the moon is falling and I'm trying to move out the way". And, with that in mind, I watched his demonstration. And, to my surprise, all of the jerky, uncoordinated mess that I'd previously been unable to understand suddenly became this grand, coherent plot in motion. He paused, negligently set his full cup of Starbucks before my feet, and began again. From time to time, he'd come dangerously close to knocking it over. Out of worry, I said, "Watch out for your cup." He stopped, looked me dead in the eyes and said, "No, I know that's there. I put it there..."
That struck a chord in me.
This guy was not bullshitting me. He actually had his heart set to practice these crazy things and did them with utmost sincerity. At that point, I began to question whether it was Abraham that was difficult to understand, or myself that was resisting understanding... All of these deliberate and meaningful things he was doing, I was just discarding as trite and trivia. But now, I could see a little more clearly.
I looked around and saw rain. I looked back and saw Abraham. I looked around and saw nobody. I looked back and there was Abraham. I looked around and saw shadows. Then I looked back and saw Abraham. Then I remembered myself. But, even in remembering myself, all I saw was Abraham. In this lonely, little square, hidden in the murk and mist of a rainy Friday afternoon, there were only us. At that moment, I realized that we're one and the same. We were both dancing in the rain and, even as shallow and transparent as that is, I was convinced that we were both there for the same reason: because we love dancing.
After that, there were no more one-sided conversations. Just the sounds of Fu Schnickens and chit-chat emanating from beneath the red-shingled canopy in the middle of the square. He sang Chris Brown songs pitch-perfectly and, as we talked, debunked, one-by-one, every doubt I had about him. Abraham told me a story about how he once--just for a minute--sold out his friend. And I felt like, for a short time, I had sold him out as well; sold him out for the petty doubts I once had. He said small issues shouldn't come between friends. I agreed and I was glad they hadn't.
He looked at his own reflection in the glass-paned doors of Cloud 9 and said that he dances better when he's looking at his mirror image:
"What you are really is just a reflection of yourself to the world, right? So...without your reflection, what are you?"
I responded, "Well, as a bboy, we're like reflections of the music. We take the music and translate it into a language that the world can understand through our dance."
I told him that, sometimes, I wonder what life wants of us.
"Well, my essence--and by 'essence', I mean the goodness inside of me--is what makes up my purpose on this Earth. I want to promote the goodness inside of people. Like God; you know how people say that he can only do good? Well, sometimes people also think that God creates 'unity'. And the Devil, being the opposite, is what divides people into sects and secludes them. Same thing when you look at certain genres and styles: it seems like they're only for a certain ethnicity or group of people. I want everyone to be able to experience all things, in their own way, so everyone can find the joy in it..."
In the end, I realized that Abraham and I, above all, are on a quest for understanding. Though it may be impossible to foster universal understanding in a world so bitter and cruel, at least I can say that I now understand my friend Abraham, and that's a great place to start...