Thursday, May 15, 2014

Juliet of the Subway


It happened this week.

It happened this way.

So I'm told by my friend, the writer Heather Summerhayes Cariou ("Sixtyfive Roses: A Sister's Memoir").

Heather was on a NYC subway train, seated near two middle-school girls. The teens were huddled together and poring over a book. One girl read aloud to the other. This alone was a sweet picture, but what were they reading with such intensity?

Heather leaned forward, hoping to glimpse the book's cover. Writers do this. We live, in hope, that our book may be the one in hand. We live, in hope, that any book will be in hand. As more and more commuters read Tolstoy on their smartphones, it becomes more difficult to gauge what the public is eating up word-wise.

Heather was delighted to see the girls gobbling up a modern adaptation of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet." Their interest made sense since Juliet is close in age to these teens, and Juliet is crazy in love with a teenage boy, and Juliet's parents would flip right out if they knew of her crush. Yup, there's a lot going on there for a couple of New York City teens to grasp.

Maybe Heather sat back and recalled her own discovery of Juliet. Heather might have been remembering her days in theatre school working on the role of Juliet. She may have smiled to think of how easy it was to identify with Juliet's passion for the boy Romeo since Heather herself had gone a little cuckoo for a certain tall young man.


In the confluence of a heart's memory on a city train and a young girl spouting the story to her friend, Heather slightly lost her mind. As the train neared her stop she stood, faced the girls, and said:

Give me my Romeo; and, when he shall die,
Take him and cut him out in little stars,
And he will make the face of heaven so fine
That all the world will be in love with night
And pay no worship to the garish sun.


Heather told me this story and described the middle-school girls' dropped jaws at this middle-aged American woman briefly transforming into a teenage Italian girl in love. With perfect timing, Heather finished the speech and stepped onto the platform as the subway doors shooshed and closed behind her.

"It was like you were with me, Mel," Heather told me.

"And now you know the feeling," I answered. "Oh yes, kids get Shakespeare, all right."

After Heather told me her story I imagined those two girls rocking on the subway train, wondering if their Romeos would ever show up. And I imagined my friend wending her way home with thoughts of how many Romeos it took to find her one true Romeo.


Oh, William Shakespeare, here's to you at 450 years of age, continuing to entrance and inspire everywhere, all the time.


CHILDREN'S WRITES: A Journal Entry
What I learned today is that Romeo didn't want the name Romeo Montague because he liked Juliet Capulet and the Montagues and Capulets had war.

The prince said "We must stop this fighting".

The Capulets and the Montagues fighting remines me of my mom and dad.

William Shakespere was telling us about themes because people just can fight and fight until their son or daughter dies.

My character is Juilet. She lives in a castle.

—Belinda, 3rd grade


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