Her hand clenches and unclenches near her chest. She pulls hair back behind her shoulder. “I’m sorry, Marta. I can not take the test.”
My bag is heavy. My hands are full. “Oh? Okay.”
“I’m sorry. You know, yes? I’ve got an appointment. It is my back.” She frowns. “Test is Wednesday, yes?”
It is the lunch break and I’ve got to prepare for the next class. “I hope you’re okay.”
She nods. “But I can’t take the test.” She fusses with her hair again.
“It’s okay, Y. My class isn’t meant to add stress to your life.” I can tell she is anxious. I think of how she edits and edits her paragraphs until she is the last student to turn work in. “One more minute,” she always says, scribbling furiously.
“You can turn it in later, Y. It’s okay.”
She shakes her head. Her finger is on the word I’ve corrected in pink ink. “A minute,” she says.
So now I say, “Y. My class isn’t meant to add stress to your life. If you can’t take the test, don’t take the test. Take care of yourself, okay?”
She smiles. “Thank you, Marta. You are kind.” Her body seems to drop slightly. She seems relaxed.
“No, no. Y. This class is here to help you, not stress you out. It’s fine. Don’t worry about the test. Okay?”
She smiles and nods. Her fist clenches and unclenches. “Thank you.”
“I’ll see you Monday?” I ask. I’m not ready for my next class. I want to buy cookies from the vending machine.
She nods and I walk away. I don’t think about that test until four months later when Y. kills herself and I have to tell my class that a classmate is dead.
I sent out a short story the yesterday. I’ve got an idea for another story. I’ve got thousands of words to go through and figure out what I can salvage into more short stories. I’ve got magazines, web sites, books listing where to send these stories.
I expect to be rejected. That’s okay.
The publishing world does not exist to add stress to my life. It is there. I can participate or not. Why should rejection from people we know nothing about mean anything?
I write. I can’t control how the world reacts. A big embrace or shrug. I’m not going away until I’m dragged away.