Ruth and I sat across from one another discussing the United States’ foreign affairs. It was near the end of the day in the third or fourth week, but Ruth and I had only met an hour earlier. The day’s prompt had me reading off 50 questions for the students in my group to answer, in hopes that they’d take those answers and find a few to arrange into a poem. All of LaNia’s answers were laced with humor—she had Aaron and I laughing throughout. But Ruth only ever cracked a reluctant smile, her mind focused on her task at hand.

MC Greg stopped by our table just before Open Mic to ask if any of us had something we’d like to read. Aaron and LaNia always preferred to enjoy the readings as audience members, but Ruth said she had something, and Greg signed her up before moving on. I read over Ruth’s poem before the clock struck four in order to provide a final stamp of approval.

There’s a war inside this train
but not like the one between the United States and Ukraine.

“I don’t even know if we have ever been at war with the Ukraine, but I just like the way it sounds,” she said as my eyes got to that line in the poem. “That’s all that really matters,” I said. Her eyes lit up. She smiled wider than Aaron or I had while laughing with LaNia. Ruth didn’t know of any wars, and she had never ridden on a train before, yet she had written a beautiful poem about both, and it totally worked.

That day, Ruth learned, and I was reminded, that no matter what is real or fake in this world, it can still exist as truth in the words that we write. And that was a good day.

Jeff Stanich is a senior English major.