The irony is this: The writer fell asleep during her much anticipated first writing class of her life.
Okay, maybe this is only half true.
There was a bit of a situation…
An hour into the class, we took a ten-minute break.
I nodded off slightly.
In case you don’t know, there is a technical term for this condition called “resting the eyes.”
I learned it long ago walking upon my mother repeatedly splayed out on the couch in our den, eyes closed, with her fingers still clutching the edges of the newspaper that now rested on her chest, the spine bent like the roof of a temple , giving her the angelic look of of a monk wearing vestments.
Mom. What are you doing?…Are you sleeping?
(I was that kid.)
Her eyes eventually blinked open, tap-tap-tap, like a housefly priming its wings before takeoff.
Are you sleeping? What are you doing?
No, no. I’m just resting my eyes.
Russ gently shook my shoulders.
Jenn, come to bed.
I opened my eyes confused, then panicked.
Oh my God, are you off to work already??
No, Jenn. It’s nighttime. Come to bed.
Class is over. Come to bed.
I realised then I had failed to rejoin the second part of class after the break. As Russ gently pushed me toward our bed, I quietly congratulated myself for having decided earlier in the evening to put on pants before class began.
Now morning, I am questioning whether everyone present garnered a clear image of my slack-jawed sleeping face, knees pulled up to my belly, arms positioned as if I were in the middle of a rave, but they weren’t moving, so actually much more resembling haphazard toothpicks stuck in a cake all catywompus.
I shudder at the image in my mind. I must have looked a cheap mimicry of still-life art, a video installation of an awkward woman wearing her husband’s oversized buffalo-plaid flannel shirt, mouth shaped like a cavern entrance, engulfing the entire purview of her video camera, emblazoned in a small box across everyone’s screens.
At least there were pants.
Did they write about that?
Did that become the writing prompt for the second half of class?
I wonder if they asked themselves: Where did she go? What happened to the girl named Jenn Schuessler?? Was that even her name, or a fictitious fabrication, because she is a girl on the run?? From who? From what? Oh my God. What did she do??? Is she a killer?? Oh no. Can’t be. That’s harsh. She must be in hiding from an abuser. Yes, yes…that must be. Didn’t you get the feeling when you met her at the beginning of the evening that she was a nice girl? Well, she didn’t have to say anything. We could see it all before us, in that tiny zoom box. In fact, she looked so tiny, so innocent, she must be in hiding. And look, tsk, tsk, the poor soul is so tired! So tired of running and hiding. Poor “Jenn.” Yes, let’s give her that much. Let’s honour her chosen name by not questioning it. Somehow she ended up here, in our group. It’s serendipity. She needs us. We need to remember this when critiquing her writing. Compassion must rule.
The entire class agrees unanimously.
This is how a writer thinks. Now I’m questioning what I might say to the teacher when I email her today to inquire if there is any homework. The thought of this conversation conjures up snippets of embarrassment as I envision her having called my name last night, volunteering me to answer her question, my attendance clearly marked as present, only for her to be handed a fat slice of silence in return. Do I lead with an omission of full admission, of why I find myself in this position in the first place, or regurgitate my lame excuse like a wily country songwriter?
Good thing this is a long flight. I need time to whisk up a terrific lie with some legs to support it.
So what pearls of wisdom did I take from half of a writing class?
First, to learn what feeds my writing. My ego let loose a rip-roaring crack hearing this pronouncement. The little bastard cried, “So many things!! So many things!! Where do we even start?,” as he shook his tiny little fists in the air. For being such a scrappy little minx, my ego is also the first one to laugh at me, and not with me.
Second, writers need to suffer through the reality our “taste” will likely always exceed our “craft.” Our thoughts and ideas are always beautifully curated centrepieces swirling through the grey matter, but once we clip them to the leash, they hit the page feral like mongrels, tangling their cords, each mutt fighting relentlessly for the top position that wins.
So, lesson number one is: Ego and Suffering.
Just as Russ put me to bedfast night, he also shook me awake this morning at his daily witching hour of 2:30 AM. It took a few tussles. It seems the activity of contemplating whether I really need to awaken or not has hardwired itself into a default setting.
I got up. This is the third time in six months I have arrived to the airport before a single representative of the airline makes an appearance. Checking in later, the representative’s demeanour rather crusty, I could’t help but wonder, “What did you do to deserve the graveyard shift?,” as I held my ID up to her face. Of course, she did nothing wrong. Only her job. Sigh—the service industry—the welterweight of working America with little voice.
Being the very first person to check-in for the day made the process smooth and quick. The inverse was true at security. My tits and ass got a friendly petting before breakfast was even served. The clasp of my bra (in front) and the back pockets of my jeans indicated suspicious items.
I was also the first person to Starbucks in the terminal. (A lot of “firsts” today.) The lights were on, but no one to be found. I considered walking behind the counter to help myself, noticing the coffee was ready, but Big Brother scares me, even more than the idea what my fellow classmates saw of me on their zoom screens last night. So I waited.
I walked to my gate and sat down to write. What’s funnier than an overly-enthusiastic amateur writer falling asleep in the first writing class of her career? I had to get it recorded asap. So I clacked away on my keyboard, sipping my Starbucks, laughing at my idiocy. The loudspeaker called for a flight to Atlanta. One even earlier than mine at 6 am? It was a Delta flight, headed to their hub. Clacking away, I wondered half-curiously how it was some airlines commingled at different terminals. So much confusion and chance for error.
Knee deep in my written confession, I looked up to find a long line of passengers queued to board at my gate. Quickly I put everything back in my bag and rushed over…..only to realise it wasn’t my flight and I wasn’t at my gate. I had accidentally read the seat assignment on my ticket as my gate number instead.
I would like to say this is the first time this has happened.
…I ran to my gate.
At least I made the flight.
If I didn’t, no surplus of expendable time could override whatever thin veneer of an excuse I would have to scratch together to justify it happening twice.