The featured image is of the comments my Professor wrote at the end of my story for our class’ workshop. I cried when reading it. It was all I ever wanted to hear.
I only declared an English major last spring, as recommended by my English Professor at the time. I have to send him a thank you note. My parents encouraged me to study business, but that was never what I wanted. I figured, if I wanted to be a business woman then I would, but I want to work in editorial, whether it be magazine publishing, or publishing writing of my own. They don’t understand.
From the beginning, my work was shitty. Take the example of Housewarming. I wrote that piece in 40 minutes, and without comprehending all of its innuendos. But I always liked the idea of it, and I didn’t want that story to die, so for my creative writing class at this juncture in my life, a class in which we read stories and then write our own (which is very important- you need to read in order to be a good writer, and I didn’t realize this until this semester), I decided to revive “Housewarming.”
I’ve been referring to it as “Housewarming: Remastered” to my friends, even though I’ve renamed it “It Started With the Magnifying Glass.” Weeks ago students, for this workshop, were supposed to bring in two pages of a new story we were working on to workshop, and I took this opportunity to rewrite the former piece into this new one. I, an overachiever, brought three eccentric pages into my critique, only to be met with hard-to-hear comments such as “your character has a specific horror to him” and “the characters seem pretentious.” My Professor, however, told me that what I had written was ‘refreshingly odd,’ and that in order for this story to be successful, I need to close all gaps between scene breaks and between my two main characters’ friendship. At the time, there was a large jump from my narrator/protagonist thinking the other character was strange to her bringing him a bottle of wine. My Professor told me to keep going.
I lacked confidence at first, when continuing. But there was no time to scrap what I had and fabricate a new story in a week, so I powered through. I put my all into it. I produced fifteen pages when the recommended amount was five to six.
On the day of my workshop, my Professor started by asking me, “what did I ask you to initially do weeks ago when we first looked at this?” I was nervous. I thought I messed up.
I answered, “you asked that I bridge the gap between my characters and make their coming together more tangible.”
He said, “you did a remarkable job of doing just that.”
I was too humble. I thanked him after everything he said. This story was a risk- I knew that, and it was the best news to hear that my risk paid off. He, and others who critiqued my story that day, said I had beautiful prose consistently, an eye for detail, reasons that the characters bounce well off each other and that their oddness makes for good dynamics.
My Professor told me I could turn this into a novel, easily. He said if not, it could end up being a noteworthy 30-35 page short story. I was ecstatic. He’s a published author, too, having published seven books and a plethora of short stories.
At one point, he asked the class, “does anyone have any comments or suggestions?” Everyone was silent. He looked at me and then said, “I can’t think of anything negative.”
Lately I’ve been feeling very down. My parents are so far up my ass they must be the TSA when it comes to my career path. Study business, they say. We can get you an internship in the field of marketing, they urge. I’ve been feeling uninspired. My poetry has gotten bitter and my metaphors darker. I’ve been unsure and frightened in the possibility that this is the wrong pathway, but I don’t feel vulnerable anymore. I’ve raised the bar for myself. I am going to continue forward.
After class, and this was our last class, keep in mind, my Professor thanked everyone for taking the class and being very attentive and up to date with assignments, and he looked at me and said, “keep writing.”
I will never forget this.
And I digress-
Here is one section, the shortest section, of “It Started With the Magnifying Glass”:
A week after that first encounter he began showing his face on Sunday nights, specifically when our laundry schedules overlapped. I purposefully ignored him at first, until he startled me, one weekend, tapping me on the shoulder when I had headphones in and asking if he could trouble me for a dryer sheet. From the looks of it, it seemed as though he hadn’t remembered when I reprimanded him weeks earlier. I surrendered a whole box to him, it was only an extra I hoarded in the back of my storage closet amongst Lysol and Band-Aids, hoping it would rid me of my former guilt and open a window into learning more about him. I wanted to know, like anyone in my position would’ve, did he set that fire?
It wasn’t likely he did, I convinced myself.
Though, he had said something concerning that would state otherwise. I pointed to the burn on his arm as he put his clothes in the mashing machine, casually, as if it were a conversation starter. I said to him, just as I slumped down against the wall of dryers while waiting for my cycle to finish up, “that’s nasty looking, what happened?”
He stopped shoveling his whites in to look at the scar, and without blinking, he stood up straight and faced me. “It’s just a burn. It doesn’t even hurt,” he insisted. “I’m trying to find a tattoo artist who’ll cover it up. I’m afraid it’ll attract the wrong attention, you know?”
I told him I knew, I told him my nose was crooked from a car crash, even said it warranted a police visit one night when I was living with my ex-boyfriend. My neighbors thought I was domestically abused, my nose formerly acute and grotesque, a purple welt on the tip and a ghostly color that spread up and down the t-zone on my face like a disease. As I retold the moment in detail, he nodded his head and kept his eyes on mine—even when I’d glance away, as if he saw an attribute of himself in me.
He and I bonded. We exchanged numbers that day.
Thank you for taking this journey with me.