Wrote for two hours straight. That’s more that I’ve done in over a month.
It’s been hitting me in waves lately, that this is actually what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life—and not to mention for the next two years.
You forget all about your anxieties about writing, while you’re actually writing. It’s only when the pen is out of your hand that they start to eat away at you.
I know I haven’t met you,
but I dreamt about you
You had on that dress
that I’ve imagined you
and your eyes
did that thing
I’ve so often pictured them doing
when you laugh too hard
I hope you don’t mind
but you were stunning,
And when I woke up,
the sky was pink, and thick
like honey. The coldest running
water couldn’t quench my thirst.
My second day sitting in on Drew’s class coincides with his second section of the week. Outside of the building that holds his classroom, Drew smokes a cigarette and muses on the summer that lies ahead. Once finished, he grinds the smoldering butt out with his sneaker, rakes his fingers through his long beard—to rid it of any errant tobacco flakes, or flecks of spit—and mutters with a toothy smile, “let’s get this shit over with,” in a jocular grumble.
He’s facing the blackboard as students file in, shrugging off the last lingering waves of early afternoon somnolence. His back is to me, and as his right arm reaches up toward the furthest corner of the board, the edge of his shirt lifts to reveal a tiny plot of plump, sun-thirsty flesh. His untidy scrawl is not all that unlike what I envision my own looking like on a chalkboard. When he finishes he turns to face the class, as the agenda for the day gazes out at the sun-lit room, bulleted: 1), 2), and 3).
One or two students trickle in late as Drew passively checks their names off of his roster—there’s only a week left in the semester and the gas seems to have all but run out of this particular class’ tank (rhetoric’s mpg rate being more like that of a Hummer than a hybrid). He speaks slowly and purposefully. Among the topics up for discussion are: the reading for that particular week; the upcoming /previous essay(s); students problems and difficulties with writing, citing, etc.—topics that I can only assume have, by now, become “normal” to this class.
For all intents and purposes everything about this class is normal: some bright-eyed students ask questions while others text and doodle; the wind rattles the long window shades that still shackle the portal to the outside; and Drew uses words like trope, stricture and caveat, makes witty jokes in a smallish tone, almost apologetically.
And then something remarkable happens. Drew stops his lecture mid-stride and begins what he refers to (on more than one occasion) as a “motivational speech.” He tells the class about his life and his experiences as a student. He tells them there’s a bigger picture. He tells them that this class is about more than just learning how to write a cogent and cohesive essay. He tells them that a degree is just a piece of paper—that the knowledge you take away from the pursuit of that piece of paper, that’s the really valuable stuff. The really important stuff.
And this is what I take note of. This is what I fill up my little leather-bound notebook with. See because here, Drew isn’t just talking about rhetoric or writing. He isn’t just lecturing. He’s teaching. He’s baring himself (and his heart/soul/whatever wishy-washy language you want to use to romanticize this purely human exchange) and really connecting with his students—students who, in reality, really aren’t that much younger than he is. Maybe this is what is missing from the failing rhetoric classes all over the world—the classes that students walk away from each day muttering, “glad that shit’s over with.”
So I bought a little city (it was Galveston, Texas) and told everybody that nobody had to move, we were going to do it just gradually, very relaxed, no big changes overnight…I thought, What a nice little city, it suits me fine.
It suited me fine so I started to change it.
-Donald Barthelme, I Bought A Little City
A rejection email from Syracuse this morning, ten hours later, a phone call from Jayne Anne Phillips, the author/director of Rutgers’ MFA program.
This life thing is as strange as it gets.
Still three programs to hear from, but now I know, come September, I’ll be going back to school.
“Who was it that thought up that idea, the idea that had made today better than yesterday? Who loved him enough to think that up? Who loved him more than anyone else in the world loved him?”
- George Saunders, “Puppy”
The steady thrum of the one light I’ve turned on is filling my ears like liquid wax and I’m sitting facing the door, staring at its handle wondering what someone would think if they came in and saw me sitting there. Maybe they’d be too frightened to think. Maybe they’d jump back a little at the sight of a shadowy sentry flush against the wall. I start imagining what she would do if she walked in and saw me sitting in her mother’s chair against the wall like this. I picture her saying “hi” like it’s just another day; like she’s just come home from work; like the sun has just set. She walks past me and into the kitchen to start dinner. Once it’s ready she sets the table and sits down at it, calls my name until I push myself out of the chair to join her.
The door handle looks to be rattling but nobody pushes past the giant piece of wood it’s attached to.