agents / high school / life / memory / men / neurotic thinking / novel / rejection

It’s not what you think.

How often do you look back on a past moment in your life and wonder if you missed what really happened?

I am very good at this.

thankfully there aren't that many pictures of me in high school

The other day I was reading about some hubbub going on over a storyline on a television series. I don’t watch the series but the issue of writer responsibility caught my attention. In the show a teenage girl has an affair with her teacher. And instead of the usual this-is-very-bad point-of-view, the show seems to have a let’s-hope-they-get-away-with-it point-of-view.

This reminded me of a chemistry teacher in my high school.

I was terrible at chemistry. Half the time I couldn’t even tell if a questions needed a sentence or a formula for an answer.

My chemistry teacher suggested that if I wanted extra help and to take the most recent test over again, I could come to school on the upcoming student holiday—-the teacher work day—-and I could take as much time as I needed to redo the exam.

This wasn’t a class-wide announcement. He stopped me on my way out of class to suggest this. I assumed he stopped other failing students too, but I didn’t ask. I did show up. I was the only student there. But how many students want to go to school on their day off?

I took the test. He and I chatted. He was one of the younger teachers and it was his first year at our high school. Lots of girls thought he was reasonably cute. He was tall and funny.

I never thought teachers were cute. They were teachers. Girls who had crushes on teachers were inexplicable to me.

So as I was gathering my things, my chemistry teacher said that a few months before he’d found a bracelet in the room. No one had ever claimed it, and since it had been such a long time since he’d found it and he wanted to clear out his desk, perhaps I would like it.

Several things occurred to me in something of a muddled order. Things in lost-and-found aren’t supposed to be given up on until the end of the year. Teachers aren’t supposed to give students presents. It wasn’t really a present. It wasn’t like he bought it. Wow, my teacher trusts me enough to give me a present and not get him into trouble. Hmm, maybe I’m not supposed to take it. Well, I can’t say no to a teacher. I’m overthinking. It is just a lost bracelet after all.

I took the bracelet—-a thin gold chain with fake pearls.

I did feel slightly strange standing there with the bracelet in my hand, but I was also flattered. He was a popular teacher after all. But it seemed weird to stay any longer, so I thanked him for the bracelet and left.

Later when I wore the bracelet, he didn’t say anything about it. I didn’t exactly think it was wrong to have it, but at the same time I told only one friend that the teacher had given it to me. She was impressed. I told her it was only a forgotten bracelet about to be thrown away. Still, part of me wanted to hold my wrist up to others and say, “Mr. So-and-so gave me this.” But I didn’t.

I did get a much better score on my retaken exam. My grade went up to a B!

A few weeks passed and my teacher announced to the class that he was leaving. He’d gotten another job—-a better paying job and he needed to money. He wasn’t even able to stay until the end of the school year.

He stopped me after class to tell me that he thought the company he’d be working for was down the street from my house. Honestly, all these years later I can’t remember how he knew where I lived. I may have told him the day I came in to retake the test because I lived out of town away from everything. But there was indeed that one small company at the end of the road. He told me I could come by and see him there at work.

I thought about it. I passed by that company building a lot. It was in walking distance of my house after all. But I also thought, surely a grown man doesn’t really want to see some silly sixteen-year-old girl show up at his office. I never went.

I still think of him when I drive by that building.

Part of me wants to believe he was just a friendly, helpful teacher. My dramatic writer mind puts a different spin on it. Ah, that crazy writer mind.

My point isn’t whether or not my chemistry teacher was innocent and foolish in his thoughtfulness. My point is—-I don’t know. I rarely trust myself to know, for sure, what someone else is really up to. One little voice says, things are not what you think. Another little voice says, you’re over-thinking again, you just want there to be a story here. Stop imagining things.

But I’m always imagining things.

Anyway. When people tell me they like something I’ve written, at first I believe them. Then I don’t. Then I do. Then I can’t decide.

An agent has asked to see more pages of one manuscript. Said agent may or may not feel enthusiastic about me. I can’t tell. So far I could believe this agent has a particular type of personality and is very busy and I shouldn’t worry too much. Or I could believe that this agent is just being nice, making a little extra effort to be sure, and isn’t really that interested. That when it comes down to it, said agent will look at my work, pause, and say no.

And if said agent says no, I’ll spend a lot of time trying to figure out what I did wrong. I won’t be able to decide if it was me (my novel isn’t that good) or the agent (my novel just isn’t that individual’s thing).

I’m sure to keep the rejection letter though. After all, I’ve still got that bracelet.

10 thoughts on “It’s not what you think.

  1. I think that teacher was not so innocent. If he were merely a helpful teacher he wouldn’t have invited you to come see him at work. It sounds like he was trying to entice you into making the first move so he would be absolved of responsibility. Predatory.

    You and I are too much alike on this topic for me to give you any advice. (And maybe most topics. 🙂 I just always go back to–if they weren’t sincere in their interest, they wouldn’t waste the time requesting pages. You’re doing fine.

    • You know at the time I remember thinking I was the bad person for even momentarily entertaining the thought that he was anything other than nice. I was so flattered to be given something–for some reason thinking it meant he thought I was mature and I so wanted grownups to think I was mature… But as often as I entertained the notion of going to see him, I’m so glad now I didn’t. And I can see that while some people think teens work these female wiles on poor older men, I also think that most of the time these girls don’t really understand what is going on.

      At least in my day. As for the agent question…I’m going to address more of that in a comment further down.

    • For a long time I thought it was just me with the “dirty” mind thinking that he meant anything by giving me the bracelet. I told myself I was making something out of nothing because it was ridiculous that he could’ve seen me (me!?) in that way. Crazy.

  2. I never had crushes on my teachers either. In fact, I am friends with one of my teachers on Facebook (from high school – 11 years post-grad) and I still don’t call him by his first name. It’s just not done. One can never be too careful when it comes to student/teacher relationships, especially today. You just never know what someone’s intentions are.

    • I think today no teacher would dare to give a student such a bracelet. People are more sensitive to that sort of thing. I mean, my dad never even asked me where the bracelet came from, and if I had told him, he probably would’ve thought my teacher was very nice. My mother, on the other hand, if she had ever seen the bracelet (and I wasn’t “stupid” enough to let her see it), would’ve been down at the school having a fit.

  3. I don’t think think you have a “crazy writer’s mind.” Also II just think it’s thinking and not over-thinking. I do that a lot too–perhaps because of the fear of consequences. To me–even though other called me an “over-thinker”–it’s just wanting to be safe, and there’s nothing wrong about it.
    When a rejection comes you shouldn’t think too much “what’s wrong with it?” Sure enough no work is perfect, but it’s not because some people don’t like what you do that it means it’s not great. Look, you said that you loved Harry Potter and JK Rowling has been rejected quite a few times.
    My point of view is that publishing agents are narrow minded. They only look for one thing, they are blinded by their expectations and can’t see greatness when it doesn’t have a form they know.
    I’m sure you will find an agent who’ll accept to take your work and get you to become a published author. It reminds me of something a French comedian said (perhaps that wasn’t form him), translated to English it goes like this “It’s not because they are many to be wrong that you have to give them right.”
    I conceive that it’s not rejoicing to be rejected but it shouldn’t affect your moral. I think there’s a bright side to this, once you are published it’ll make you feel incredibly more proud of your work and satisfied, because you “fought” for your book.

    I’m looking forward to read your book Marta 🙂

  4. Congratulations on being asked for more pages. It’s a step in the right direction. I haven’t been keeping up with my blogs lately, but I don’t recall seeing that you mentioned these extra pages on FB. Perhaps I just missed it. Did you mention it? I think you, and I, should pay more attention to the positives, the successes, the steps forward, instead of the rejections, the struggles, the flaws. This old teacher, he was probably a creep. I had a chem teacher who liked to take pictures of the pretty girls in his class. Yuck. But why do you think that if this agent wants to see more of your work that it is somehow connected to a perv teacher?

    I understand not wanting to jinx it or hope for too much or set yourself up for disappointment… but you are a great writer. Lots of people like your work. Go you.

    • What is it with chem teachers? Pictures? Ugh. Did he ever get into trouble? Sometimes, when my imagination is overactive (ha), I wonder if he left school so suddenly just because of a better job or if he actually had to leave. It seems unlikely I was the only female student he gave a little bit too much attention to.

      As for the agent situation… well, I haven’t been posting much about it or been sure what to say about it because I like this agent and I don’t want my worries–posted publicly–to mess things up. But what I haven’t said–for several reasons–is that the agent answered my query in the first place because this agent represents a friend of mine. Which is great. And really, it always helps to have a referral. The job world works that way. And I’ve worked hard. And so on. But the agent wasn’t that thrilled with the first pages and asked for something else. Or left it open to me to say had something else. The agent is looking at those pages, asked for more, and now has asked for more. if said agent is doing anything “just to be nice” I assume it is not to be nice to me but to my friend who gave me a lovely reference. And it is perfectly possible the agent likes what the pages I’ve sent, and really wants to see more, it is hard to shake the feeling (because that’s how I am) that the agent isn’t really, you know, ENTHUSIASTIC, and is trying to find a reason to like me.

      The agent did say a few nice things including that my characters were “laser perfect.” This is the problem with referrals. The industry likes them. The help. But it takes longer to feel truly liked. And I want an agent who really wants to represent me. ME!

      But I am sending more pages and we’ll what happens. But I guess this is the association. I can’t read the signals an actual person in front of me sends. And I go through emails and can’t parse the words to what they might actually mean. Am I reading the situation correctly?

      If the agent likes me, of course, I don’t want to mess things up with my insecurity.

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