A week or two ago, I wrote a short story which is my first piece of fiction in years. Also, I haven’t been on WordPress lately, and it looks a little different. Anyways, I thought I’d post my new story. Yes it’s first person, but it’s fictional. I have not done all the things the narrator has done, and I have done a few of the things she says she’s never. My American History TA did have red Chucks, though. Enjoy.
I arrived to the classroom early. I quickly found a desk by the window and shoved my books underneath. I laid my notebook on the desk and fished through the big pockets of my brown coat, searching for my favorite blue pen. As the room filled, I paged through the notebook looking for a blank sheet. I handled it carefully. Some of the pages were wrinkled or stained, others barely held onto the spiral binding. Here it was second semester of my senior year, and I was still carrying the same notebook that I had taken to every other writing class of my college career. The first section was filled with first drafts of argumentative essays from composition class. I had debated over culturally offensive mascots, privatized space exploration, and the effectiveness of gun control in preventing suicides. The second section was supposed to be from my poetry writing class. I hadn’t been very inspired, and the pages were covered more with my geometric doodles than actual verses. Looking back at that section, I could remember the days I was especially bored by the numerous colors of ink on a single page. I had heard from several people that this was a really interesting and useful class. I hoped so. I actually wanted this third section of the notebook to be filled with funny words and thoughtful insights, not statistics like the first section or colorful drawings like the second.
The bell rang and I looked up. I was so busy going through my old notebook, I hadn’t noticed the instructor until now. She didn’t look much older than me. She had long, wavy brown hair and a great complexion. She had a fuzzy gray scarf around her neck that reminded me of my German 102 TA from freshman year and a black sweater. With her skinny jeans and black flats, she was decidedly more hip than any of my other instructors. Well, there was my American History TA who always wore red and white Chucks, but he was a he, and that didn’t interest me.
“I hope everyone had a lovely winter break,” she began. Her eyes were bright and her voice clear. “Welcome to spring semester and welcome to Creative Writing. I’m Julie Siddell. I’m working on my Masters in American Literature. My thesis is looking at drug and alcohol use in American Lit. Two of the books I’m focusing on are Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Sun Also Rises. Was anyone here in my Modern American Novels class last semester? No? Okay, well I will be teaching it again next fall and we’ll be reading both of those books.”
Damn, I thought. I missed my chance. I’m graduating in May. No “next fall” for me. I’ve already read both of those books, but I would probably take any class this girl would teach.
“This is a fairly big class, but I would still like everyone to try to get to know each other’s names,” she continued. I looked around, probably 35 people in here. “So let’s start in this front corner by the door and everyone say their name, major, year in school, and one activity you do outside of class.”
The first girl recited the required answers. We will probably be doing peer reviews and critiquing each other. I should probably get to know them. I tore my attention off of Julie and tried to listen to my classmates. A lot of freshman and sophomores. A lot of undecided majors. Ugh, a lot of girls citing their sorority as their extracurricular. There were a couple people I’d had other classes with, including Rob, a guy from my major. I recognized two guys and a girl from the LGBT tutoring center.
It was my turn. “I’m Katie Nelson. I’m a senior in broadcast journalism. I’m involved with a lot of activities around campus, but I’ve been in Student ACLU all four years.”
“Are you going to be an on-air personality?” Julie asked.
She hadn’t asked Rob that. “Oh no, I want to be a radio producer,” I answered.
“I see.” I think she blushed as we moved onto the next person.
When introductions were finished, Julie picked up a stack of papers from her desk. “This is the syllabus,” she said. “I know a lot of professors go over these on the first day of class, but I think you’re big kids and can read it on your own. I want to get right down to writing. I’m sure you are all on different levels with your writing skills as well as your creative thinking, so I want to do a little in-class exercise so I can get a feel for where all of you are at. Write a list of twenty rules you’ve broken. Don’t elaborate too much, we only have 30 minutes of class time left.”
Twenty rules I’ve broken? Twenty? Does she expect us all to be little deviants? I’ve broken the speed limit. I’ve exceeded the time limit on parking spots. I drank underage and I’ve bought alcohol for minors. This wasn’t creative. Everyone has done these things. I used to get into bars with a fake ID, and one time I rolled at my friend’s apartment. The time was ticking away and I’d only thought of six violations. I broke curfew in high school. I never did the algebra homework. I called in sick to my cafeteria job when I wasn’t really sick. I used my cellphone at the hospital when the sign said it was supposed to be turned off. I snuck my video camera into a Tegan and Sara concert. Okay this might be cheesy, but I wrote down that I’ve broken the rules of grammar and wore white shoes after Labor Day. Maybe this was the creativity Julie was looking for. I got a girl’s number and called her the next day instead of waiting three days like my friends said you’re supposed to. I always read my new issue of Vanity Fair in Geology 101. Hmm, that’s probably not against a specific rule, just frowned upon. I didn’t write that one down. I had come up with fourteen, but class was almost over and I couldn’t think of any more. I racked my brain. I’ve never cheated on a test. I’ve never cheated on someone I was dating. I have lied, fifteen. I’ve never dated my friends’ sisters or my exes’ friends. I’ve never revealed a secret someone told me. I’ve never shoplifted. I trespassed on an old railroad bridge hiking with my friends, sixteen. At a laundry mat, I drank coffee that was for customers only, seventeen. I jaywalk constantly, eighteen. I started thinking about how much I was revealing about myself to Julie. She was beautiful, but a stranger nonetheless. I waded in a fountain that people aren’t supposed to play in, nineteen. It had been in the back of mind for the whole assignment and I decided to risk it. For number twenty I wrote, “I’ve never dated my teacher, but if you’ll call me sometime, that’ll be a rule I’ve broken.” I thought about scribbling it out, but the bell rang and Julie was already walking around the room collecting the lists. My chest tightened as I handed her my paper. She smiled at me, and I hoped she would still be smiling at me the next time our class met.