This all started back when I was sixteen years old. I had written some poems that I liked, then I'd emailed them to my Uncle Darryl. He lived in Nashville, working as a sound engineer for a famous recording studio. I knew he also wrote and played his own country music compositions. In the back of my mind was the hope that he might turn one of the poems I was sending him into a real song.
As fate would have it, Uncle Darryl had a few of his own tunes that he had already written. He made a few changes to his music, adapting it a bit so the melody would mesh better with the lyrics I'd just sent him. Well, to make a long story short, a pretty famous country group liked two of me and my uncle's songs and recorded them both on their new album. My uncle had given me full credit for the lyrics, taking his own credit for just writing the music. The album did very well, with both songs later being released as singles.
A few months after the album was released, my uncle called over to my parent's house to let them know that our first royalty check for those two songs had come in. My share was sixty three hundred dollars. Of course, I was overwhelmingly excited at the prospect of having so much money, and even more so, after my uncle told my father that the royalties would just keep coming for as long as people bought the CD's, or played either song on the radio.
For the next three years I tried my hardest to write other lyrics, but nothing I wrote seemed to have the appeal or the power that those first two songs had. Uncle Darryl and I hadn't sold another song since we'd sold those first two. We didn't quit trying, even though we were both disappointed that it hadn't turned out to be as easy as we had first thought it was going to be, to write a few songs, and then get rich from it.
The good part about all of this was that those royalties kept on coming in. A well known lady singer made her own recording of one of those songs, about two years after the other band had recorded and released their album.
The royalties we got from her recording were more than what we'd gotten from both songs originally being recorded and put out by the country band. I liked her version of the song even better than I'd liked the first one. It seemed closer to what I'd been feeling, back when I first wrote my poem.
Anyhow, this brings us up to nearer to the present time, to the point where I was now nineteen years old, and half way through my first year of college. Between scholarships, grants, and the royalty money I'd saved up from the songs, I had no financial problems at the university I'd picked to study at.
I lived in a huge dorm, one that was sixteen stories tall, with about a hundred dorm rooms on each floor. This was a very big university, with more than thirty thousand students enrolled. Thirty five hundred of them lived in my dorm building, and it seemed that almost all of them were constantly running short of spending money, before they received their monthly living allowances from their parents.
My roommate, Ron, was a good case in point. Two weeks after classes had gotten started, he'd come to me and begged me to loan him twenty dollars for this "hot" date he'd unexpectedly gotten. At the time, we weren't close at all, and I'd hesitated to loan him the money at first.
"Charlie, don't be such a dick. Loan me the money, and I swear I'll pay you back, just as soon as I get my check. I should have it back to you by Saturday, at the latest."
"I don't loan money. Loaning money leads to hard feelings. It isn't something I want to get started doing."
"Let me borrow the twenty, and I'll pay you back twenty five, just as soon as my next check comes from home. You'll make a quick five bucks, and it will be worth that to me, because then I can go out on this date tonight."
"I'm not a loan shark, Ron. I just don't like the idea of loaning my money out."
"Look, loan me the money and you can have my refrigerator to use until I pay you back, along with all that interest I promised. If I don't pay, you can just keep the refrigerator until after I pay you back your money. There isn't any way you can lose out this way."
Ron had one of those small refrigerators, the kind you could keep soda, fruit and other foods in. His also had two trays of ice cubes in a tiny freezer compartment. I envied him his refrigerator, and hadn't been happy with his telling me I couldn't use it to store any of my stuff. I had a small microwave oven which I'd already invited him to use.
Rather than forcing him to pay me interest on the loan, I'd negotiated full access to his fridge for the remainder of the school year. To me, that was worth more than the five dollars in interest he had originally offered. Luckily, he had promptly repaid the loan. Having a roommate who had extra cash had turned Ron into a much more caring and considerate roommate.
It wasn't very long before my roommate had spread the word around that I always had more money than I needed just to live on. Shortly after he'd repaid me I was accosted by two other guys who were both living on our floor, both asking that I advance them some needed funds to participate in their upcoming weekend social activities. I loaned each the asked for twenty dollars, taking a guitar as security for the first loan, and an Ipod for the second. Both loans required the repayment of twenty five dollars, in order to redeem their collateral.
By the end of my first school year I was routinely making ten to twenty small loans each week. Loans ranging in size from a minimum of twenty dollars, to a maximum of fifty dollars. All loans required some physical form of security, something that I believed more valuable than the loan being requested. I took in laptops, school textbooks, musical instruments, appliances, you name it, but I never made any loan without first getting collateral.
In my sophomore year, there was this girl in one of my classes, a girl who one day approached me as I sat out on one of the quads. Her name was Felicia Owens, and she was dark haired, around five feet four, and a bit on the heavy side of her ideal weight. She wasn't fat, but she was carrying a bit more weight than she might have wanted. She was still very attractive to me.
"Are you Charles Vain?" She asked.
"Charlie Vain, that's right. You're in my Chemistry class, Felicia, right?"
"A friend told me that you sometimes lend money to people, if they only need it for a week or so?" I nodded my head in the affirmative to that. "I need to borrow a hundred dollars, to get a book, and some art supplies."
"I'm sorry for this misunderstanding, Felicia. I'm not actually in the loan business. Sometimes, I try to help people out, but usually these are only people who live on my floor in the dorm building."
"I really need that book and those supplies. I can pay you back in about ten days, but I need that stuff by tomorrow morning at eight. If I don't have my book and supplies, the professor won't allow me to take her class. I'm an art major, and I really do need to take her class."
"Did you try the administration? They have a fund set up to help people out with expenses like that."
"You think I came to you without first trying everything else? I'm already at the maximum allowance for student aid funds. If you won't help me, I'm screwed." From the glum look on her face, I believed her. I wanted to help her, but I wasn't looking to expand my operations. A hundred dollars wasn't that much money to me, but it was twice what my loan limits were set up to be.
There was one other thing too, I'd never yet made a loan to a woman. With a male, if he didn't want to pay me, besides the collateral, I also had something of a physical intimidation factor I could use to help with compelling him into honoring his promised repayment of the debt. I hadn't needed to use that yet, but it was certainly there in the back of my mind.
"What would you leave me as collateral, if I did decide to help you out? I only make loans secured by something of at least equal tangible worth."
"I have my bike, but it isn't worth anything close to a hundred dollars. I have some clothes, my alarm clock, and my passport. Would all that be enough for you?"
"The only one of those I might accept is the alarm clock, but that probably isn't worth too much money." The alarm's value probably wouldn't even cover the interest for the loan.
"How much would the interest be?"
"Ten dollars for the ten days. A dollar a day past that, if you needed more time after that. It doesn't matter though, because I won't loan money without adequate collateral."
"I could give you a post dated check as collateral, if you wanted me to. If I don't make the check good, you could go to the police."
"Go to the police and tell them what? That I'm loaning out money at illegal rates of interest here on campus? I don't think so. Look Felicia, I'm really sorry, but I don't think I can help you."
"You have to! I need this class, and I need that money before tomorrow. There must be something we can work out, something that will make you want to help me with this problem?"
"Sorry, really. I'd like to help, but this isn't the sort of problem I can help you with."
"How about if I agreed to sleep with you? Could that be my collateral?"
"It makes me uncomfortable for you to even suggest something like that. This isn't something I care to discuss any further with you." I stood up then and walked out of the quad, not paying any attention to where I was going, just wanting to get away from Felicia and her ridiculous proposition. I wasn't a total innocent. I'd certainly heard of women exchanging their sexual favors for money. It had just surprised me when she came right out and offered anything like that to me.
I might interject a small note here, admitting that, to this point in my life, I had yet to experience any form of sexual contact with anyone other than myself. That's right, I was a virgin. Why else do you imagine I had spent most of my free time over the past three years, locked up in my bedroom, writing poems about broken hearts and unrequited love? Outside my own bedroom, I was far too shy to ever engage any girl, especially one that I might find the least bit attractive, in any kind of conversation.
With me walking off in a big huff like that, it should have been the end of things with Felicia, and with that loan she'd been begging me for. That had certainly been my intention when I'd walked away from her in the quad earlier.
Back in my dorm room though, I'd suddenly felt inspired to write a new poem. This poem, as you might have already guessed, dealt with the theme of a young woman asking a young man for a favor, and offering her body as payment for it.
I called it 'You Don't Know Me That Well', and the words fairly flew off my pencil, and onto the page. I can't ever remember any song or poem that ever wrote itself so easily. I just sat there, after I'd written it, reading it over, marvelling at how easy it had been for me to write, and thrilled by how much I now liked what I'd written. I emailed the poem to my uncle in Nashville, soliciting his opinion of it.
Once I'd sent my new poem off, I shut down my laptop and left my dorm room to go looking for Felicia. I planned to stop off at the ATM machine to get myself some extra cash, just in case I found her in time. Finding her proved a lot easier than I had imagined it might, since she was camped out in front of my dorm entrance. I walked over to her as she was getting up after seeing me come out the front door.
"Come with me, Felicia. I need to get some money. I've decided to make you the loan after all."
"Really? That's great! Thank you, Charlie. You don't know how important taking this class is to me. I'm glad you changed your mind. Would it be okay if I went to the student bookstore to get the book and the other things I need before we go back to your room? They're closing early today, and I won't have the time to do it before tomorrow's first class."
I took her straight to the bookstore. It was a good thing I did too, because the art book and the supplies came to more than a hundred and forty dollars. Felicia hadn't bothered checking out what her actual costs were going to be for everything she needed. I paid the bill with one of my two credit cards. I'd gotten one through the university, but I'd already had one from my hometown bank. When we left the bookstore cashier, Felicia was clutching the store bag containing her purchase to her chest. I looked at her, and I could see how nervous and upset she was now getting. She still thought I was going to have her give me sex to pay the interest on the loan I'd just made her.
"Relax. I have no intention of forcing you to put up the collateral you suggested."
"You don't? How come?"
"I'm not the kind of person who would force myself on someone because their financial needs made it possible for me to do so. I don't think you are the kind of woman who'd be comfortable following through with delivering what you earlier offered as an inducement."
"I'd keep my word, Charlie. You don't know me that well, not if you think I wouldn't pay you." I could see the anger in her facial expression. When I started laughing, her anger got even greater.
"Stop being mad. I wasn't laughing at you, Felicia. I was laughing at what you just said. After our first talk earlier, I went back to my room and wrote this poem. The title of the poem was 'You Don't Know Me That Well'."
That stopped her from getting even angrier, although I don't think she really believed me about the poem, or about the title of it. I left her then, after first telling her that there was no hurry for her repaying the loan, and that I was willing to wait for my money until after she had enough funds to repay the money comfortably.
It ended up taking about a month before Felicia managed to repay all of the loan amount. She paid me the first fifty dollars after a week, then another fifty, two weeks after that. The final payment, where she tried including thirty dollars in interest, came another week after that, after she'd been paid for the part time job she'd gone out and gotten for herself. I refused to take any interest for the loan, telling her that I'd made it as a personal favor, not as part of any loan business I may have had. She ended up asking me out, then paying for our dinner instead. I figured that a free meal would be an okay thing for me to accept from her.
A week after I'd emailed the new poem to Uncle Darryl, he'd called me, all excited about the lyrics, and about the original music that he'd written for them. He had me on the phone for almost an hour while he sang that song, using several different singing styles for the male country artists he was hoping to interest in recording the song. Darryl was pretty fair at imitating famous country singers, and that might have been his main failing. He had never gotten to the point where he had the confidence to really try performing with his own singing voice, or with his own, unique, song style.
Darryl called me right after Felicia had made her final payment to me, wanting to let me know that he'd signed a rights contract with a very big country star to record our song on the album he was currently laying down tracks for. Darryl told me that the royalties for our song were, for all practical purposes, already in the bank, because this performer had sold literally tons of copies of anything he'd ever recorded.
I'll admit that just the thought of having such a famous person singing a song that I'd written the lyrics to was the thrill of my young lifetime, at least, up to that point of it. It wasn't just about any money that I might make either. It was about being associated with someone of his proven talent, and about knowing that I was still capable of writing some words that had appealed to an artist like him.
My disappointment with the writing failures of the past three years fell away, and I instantly regained a lot of my lost self confidence. I'd really hated the idea that my song writing career might have peaked when I was only sixteen years old.
After getting off the phone with Uncle Darryl, I really needed someone I could share my exciting news with. Unfortunately, I really didn't have anyone close by that I knew well enough to share something like this with. I had school friends, but not the kind I could go to with something as personal as this was to me. That was when I thought of Felicia. We weren't close friends or anything, but I'd already told her the title of the poem I'd written. I thought she might be interested in knowing that my poem had been turned into a song, and that it was about to be recorded.
As soon as I thought of Felicia, I knew she was the right choice. I knew myself, and I knew I wouldn't be able to get any rest until after I'd shared the news with someone else. It was just too big and important for me to keep it all inside.
I placed a call to her cell phone, but it went straight to her voice mail. I left her a message, saying that I had important news I wanted to share with her, asking her to call me whenever she got the chance.
"Charlie? I got your message, what's this news you are so excited about?" It was seven the next morning when Felicia finally returned my call. I'd spent half the night, tossing and turning, too excited to sleep. I'd finally fallen asleep at around four that morning.
"Remember that poem I told you I wrote, back on that day you asked to borrow the money?"
"The one about you not knowing me that well? That one?"
"Yes, 'You Don't Know Me That Well'. It got made into a song now, and you'll never guess who is going to put it on his new album."
"Really? Tell me."
After I told her, I found out she wasn't any kind of fan of country music. While she admitted that she knew who the artist I'd named was, she professed to not liking any of the music he'd ever recorded.
"You might not care much for his music, but millions of other people do. I'm excited to have him recording one of my songs. I'll be even more excited when the first royalty checks get here. My Uncle Darryl told me we were sitting on a gold mine, with him recording our song."
"He's going to pay you for using your song?"
"The recording company pays us. We get a check every quarter, for as long as people keep buying the album and the radio keeps playing that song over the airwaves."
"I never thought about it, but I guess it makes sense, now that I've heard you talking about it. Is this the first poem you've ever gotten published or sung?"
I told her about my first two poems, and was happily surprised that she liked the song the lady artist had covered almost two years before. That cover hadn't been a country version, but more like a mainstream ballad arrangement.
"How much did these people singing your songs make you? If you don't mind my asking?"
"I don't mind. I think it was about a hundred and eighty thousand, so far. Only half of that was mine though. My uncle wrote all the music, all I did was write the lyrics. I still get residuals on the songs though, from both the original recordings, and from the cover of the one song that the lady did. Usually, I get a few thousand dollars each quarter. You get the most when it first comes out, but then it tapers off quite a bit before it stays pretty steady from then on. Those first two songs, they sold okay, but not really what you'd call smash hits or anything. This new song should earn us quite a lot more, because his CD's sell like hot cakes. We get a few cents from every sale, and something more, whenever they play our song on the radio."
"Didn't you tell me that you wrote that poem in like half an hour?"
"Yes, it was the quickest I've ever finished a poem. If you remember, I was pretty upset after what you said to me?"
"Oh my God! You didn't write about what I said I'd do, did you?"
"I did write about it. I thought I told you that. I didn't mention your name or anything, but the poem was about a girl offering to have sex with a boy she doesn't know very well. It was all about how he felt, how he reacted to what she was offering him."
"Do you still have a copy of your poem?"
"May I read it?"
"I don't think so. The poem is way too personal for me to show it to anyone."
"That is just plain stupid, Charlie. You can't say its too personal to show it to me, not when you just made some kind of deal for that famous Hillbilly singer of yours to make a CD of it. Besides, the song is about me, isn't it?"
"No, definitely not. The song is about some boy, and how he feels about something that just happened to him. What happened that day just put the idea in my head. The poem definitely wasn't about you."
"Am I getting any credit for inspiring the poem at least?"
After Felicia and I got off the phone I reviewed the last few minutes of our conversation. It probably would have been better if I'd just allowed her to read my poem. I could have explained how I'd changed the context of what had actually occurred before I wound up putting it into the poem I'd ended up writing.
The fact that our talk had inspired the poem didn't mean that what I wrote needed to closely resemble what had actually occurred. Those two things didn't necessarily have to follow each other that closely. I didn't want her hearing that song, then realizing how panicked I'd been after she'd offered to sleep with me. It was too late now though. I couldn't change the words, not after everything was finished, ready to be recorded.
While I was thinking and worrying about this, and Felicia's possible reactions, once she'd heard the song, I started getting an idea for another poem. It was a poem about an apology, about a man apologizing for being a disappointment to someone. This time the words came slower, with some of my thoughts too jumbled up to be reduced to lines in a poem.
The feeling remained strong though, so I wrestled with the words, hoping that I'd be able to clearly convey the meaning I wanted to share. At the end, while not too excited by the lines themselves, I did feel a sense of accomplishment, because I'd somehow managed to clearly express the main idea I'd hoped for with the poem.
When that new CD was released, it was titled: 'You Don't Know Me That Well'. This came as a total shock to me. Even Uncle Darryl, when I talked with him, over the phone, told me that no one had discussed the new CD title with him. A month later, when the new video first appeared on CMT, the album, and the title song were already number one on every country chart.
"Bend me to your wild and wanton easy ways? Is that what you thought, that I'm wild and easy? I thought you told me that the song wasn't about me?"
"It isn't. The poem was about a young man reacting to an unexpected situation. Of his being totally unprepared and ill equipped to handle that kind of stress. It isn't about anyone else being judged, only himself."
"I saw that damn video. It didn't seem to me like that was what the damn song was saying."
"I had nothing to do with that video. That was their interpretation of the poem, his and my uncle's, not mine. I thought about what you said on the phone before. I probably should have allowed you to read my poem before you saw the interpretation that others have put on it. I doubt that your personal interpretation of the words would have agreed with what that video shows."
"That girl on the video acts like she's nothing but a common slut."
"That is what I thought when I saw it too. That wasn't what I tried to say with my poem. I was writing about innocence being challenged, about not managing to cope with, or handle, an unexpected situation very well."
I was grateful when the professor walked in and began his class lecture. Felicia walked away from me, going to an open seat way on the other side of the lecture hall. I knew my words had done nothing to change her mind about me writing the poem, or with its meaning being pretty much what she now believed I'd meant it to be.
What troubled me the most was knowing that there were definite elements in the poem that probably would be interpreted less innocently than how I'd stated things to her. Still, I'd told her the truth when I told her that the poem was about my reacting to a situation, even more than to the situation itself.
After class was over, I got out that apology poem and spent a few hours trying to improve on it. When I left off with it, I felt like I'd made some small progress, but it still didn't have the easy flowing word style that I was seeking for it. It was getting there though, and I was happy, knowing that the clarity of expression hadn't been reduced by my changes to the poem. If anything, the changes made things even clearer.
I didn't see Felicia, except for in that one class we had together. She and I always sat on opposite sides of the hall. I continued my work on the apology poem, somewhat obsessed with the idea that, once finished, it would serve to completely express what I now wanted to tell Felicia.
I finally finished my apology poem. It certainly wasn't perfect, but I was pretty sure it was as close as I could get it to conveying what I felt. I had given it the title: 'I'm So Sorry To Have Disappointed You'. I must have read it through two hundred times after I was finished with it. I knew it still lacked something, but I couldn't figure out what that something was.
I had the words to my new poem set and printed at the local Staples office supply center, on a piece of thick white card stock paper. It really turned out well, especially after I had it mounted and framed at a local art store. I wrapped it and gave it to Felicia's roommate to give to her. Two days later I found the remnants of the poem and frame in a paper shopping bag, sitting in front of my dorm room. I say remnants, because she had taken the whole thing and thrown it around until it was broken and mangled beyond anyone's ability to repair or restore.
There was a note to me included with the remnants. "Only a moron would expect anyone to believe that you are sincere."
Later that same day, after changing the title of my poem to: 'Only A Moron', and changing two of the poem's stanzas, I sent it off to Darryl to get his opinion.