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Can’t you wait?

with a fellow RA (Resident Assistant)

I listen at the door in an empty dimly lit hall. The couple are easy to hear.

I knock. “R.A.,” I say. I hate this part.

The two of them stumble around as quietly as they can. “What?” the girl says through the closed door.

“It’s the R.A.,” I say. This is my job. No answer. I knock again.

“Just a minute,” she says. She opens the door in a tee shirt and boxers. “What?”

“May I come in?” I ask. She can say no. Her rights are in the student handbook. No one ever reads the student handbook.

Her mouth twists. She opens the door wide and I step in. “What is it?” she asks.

“I heard voices in the hall,” I say. “You know visiting hours ended at 10.”

She rolls her eyes. “So? Did someone complain?”

Her roommate came and got me. The roommate wanted back in her room. “I heard voices in the hall,” I say again.

“It’s just me,” she says. “Maybe you’ve got the wrong room.”

“May I check your closet?’

She can say no to that too, but she shrugs. I open the closet. The guy is squatting in the laundry basket, clothes cover his head. “Get dressed and meet me out in the hall,” I say, looking away.

I tell the girl I’ll have to write her up. “Skinny fucking bitch,” she says.

My pen shakes when I write down her name and room number. I hope she doesn’t notice. “I’ll put that in the write-up,” I say. She makes a face.

“I’ll be in the hall,” I say.

Waiting in the hall, I wonder why they can’t wait until the weekend. The weekend is 24-hour visitation. It is Thursday night. But I don’t have a boyfriend. I’ve never had a boyfriend.

The hallway is deserted, but the other girls are surely listening behind their closed doors. The guy comes out and gives me half a smile. “I need your ID,” I say.

He hands it to me and tells me his name at the same. He’s dressed, but he’s got more clothes rolled up under his arm. He follows me down the hall, and in the elevator we’re alone. I don’t look at him. I write his information down on my scrap of paper. “That it?” he asks.

I give him back his ID and nod. “Will she get in trouble?” he asks.

No guy has ever asked me to break a rule for him. “It just goes in a file,” I say. “The director will talk to her. If nothing else happens, that’s it.”

“You do this often?” he asks.

I lean back against the elevator wall and cross my arms over my chest. “There is 24 hour visitation starting tomorrow.” I don’t look at him, but he kind of laughs.

“Sorry,” he says when the doors open.

“Me too,” I say.

We walk through the lobby to the front doors of the dorm. As far as I know, I never see him again.

My son and I go to the bookstore a lot. He likes to pick out a few books, find an out-of-the-way corner, and have me read to him. Yesterday, we walked past the fiction section and he said, “It’s so pretty.”

I looked at the shelves, the pillar, the window, up the vaulted ceiling. “Yes, it is.” And I can’t decide if I’m jealous or inspired by all the books I see. What if I had a book on one of the shelves? Most of the books that are there I’ll never read. I can’t bring myself to say any of those books are bad because I’ve always hated that sour grape fable and they have managed something I have not.

How do you feel when you read a terrible book? Do you want to quit or try harder?

10 thoughts on “Can’t you wait?

  1. Factoring in all the conditions and lucky accidents and seemingly random decisions that go into getting a book published in the first place, it’s hard for me to get too worked up when I read a terrible book. There’s that karma thing (even *cough* the undrowned version :)). No doubt, some (maybe even many) readers will think my book is terrible; and whether they read mine or not, some (many?) will wonder how it ever got published when their own, better work still hasn’t. (And if they were to ask me, I myself wouldn’t be able to tell them why in any way which would satisfy us both.)

    My reaction to seeing shelves of books is much closer to inspiration than to jealousy. Mostly, I wish there were time enough to read them all (even the terrible ones) and add my own to the pile.

    (Great to see one of your, uh, one of your back-story stories again, btw.)

  2. Once upon a time, a literary stinker made me hopeful. “Hey, I can do better than this,” I’d think, and I’d elbow my way back into the fray, flinging words at the screen with renewed abandon. As the years jogged past me — and the unpublished manuscript pile took up more and more disk and closet space — poor new material gained a stronger and stronger w(h)ine vinegary tang. Now I tend to read (and re-read) authors I know (many of them safely dead) so it’s not an issue.

    I don’t recommend this solution, especially if you’re actually writing. Literary — hell, human horizons expand . . . or they shrink. There’s no static state.

    Besides, bad books are often good for a chuckle. A groan. Even a How-Not-To-Write epiphany or two. 🙂

  3. Try harder! Nothing gives me a shot in the arm like thinking, “I can write better than this loser!” Whether it’s true or not.

    I’m going to send you a longer comment later via email because the experience I want to cite would be better left off the Internet. Publicly, I’ll say that one day preparation will meet opportunity and you will be a published writer. Perfect story to go with that feeling of not being able to wait. I love how you do that. Wish I could.

  4. I loved that story. I would say that I don’t like most of the books I start to read and leave them unfinished. I’ve become pickier and pickier as I’ve gotten older. Often I assume I’ve just lost my ability to concentrate, but then something really grabs me and I realize that’s not true. I know I write better than many published authors but I know that many published authors have luck and connections that I may never have and that is frustrating.

  5. I give books up to a 100 pages to lure me in, if the author can’t capture my interest by then, (s)he’s fired. I simply cannot abide a writer who betrays me. Trudi Caravann is one such writer. She killed off the wrong person at the end of one of her trilogies and despite how compelling her fantasy writing is I refuse to give her the time of day.

    I am always on the lookout for a new beloved author. Once I find an author I like, I devour everything they’ve ever written in a most rat-a-tat-tat manner. Those authors sit on my comfort shelf and I hang out with them over and again b/c I find their company so enjoyable. As I do yours.

    Btw, loved the RA story. Nobody would EVER call me a Skinny fucking bitch. It’s either Fat Fuck or plain old Bitch. I’m sorry she swore at you, but I’m slightly envious of the descriptive added to your verbal f-bomb. 😉

    • I don’t know Caravann’s work, so can’t speak to that… but it is terrible to feel betrayed by a writer. I felt that way when I watched the series finale of Twin Peaks. I felt David Lynch had left me behind even though I’d stuck with the series and loved the series…

      I don’t get called a bitch often. Almost never. But on those rare occasions when that happened skinny was stuck onto the front. Hey, don’t be jealous. I might’ve been skinny, but I couldn’t get a boyfriend to save my life! No kidding.

      May my stories never betray you.

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