Instructor’s Margin Notes On English Assignment #3.
[Originally published November 7, 2011.]
— Run on.
— Run on.
— Is this your thesis?
— Or is this your thesis?
— Love may not be the best topic for you to write about.
— Don’t address your reader in the paper.
— This idea doesn’t follow.
— Don’t call me old.
— Run on.
— You’ve used “truth” three times on this page. What do you mean by “truth"?
— “Cromulent” is not a real word.
— Stop calling me old.
— You don’t need to explain who the Beatles are. They are Beatles. And it’s spelled “B-E-A-T-L-E-S.”
— Run on.
— Don’t use “cause” instead of “because.”
— Stop calling me old. You’re only a few years younger than me.
— This idea comes out of nowhere.
— Run on.
— Actually Calvin, I can’t let this go. I dated your sister. I was the guy she met in Ireland. I talked to you on the phone. You asked me if I only went to Ireland to try to get pussy and I said you’re talking about your sister and you said tell the truth and I said well that and the beer. And you called me when I broke up with her. You called me on my little pay-by-the-minute mobile. Called me words that weren’t even half of what I was hearing on my daily jog through the park. You told me you’d never forget my name and if you ever saw me you’d make me pay for using your sister like I did.
— This sentence is as clichéd as your threats.
— Run on.
— Your repetition of words doesn’t make you sound clever.
— You use the word “truth” again. This word doesn’t mean anything the way you’re using it.
— You want some “truth"? I didn’t meet your sister in Ireland. I followed her there. I bankrupted myself to follow her there. I saw her at a poetry reading where this nervous guy in glasses read. He’d written a poem, a love poem. He’d written a love poem and he’d written it to someone in particular and he was nervous because he was going to read it in public and the person he’d written it for hadn’t shown up. You could see it in his face when he scanned the room. He was looking and she wasn’t there. I thought he was going to cry. But he went through with it. I can’t quote the poem for you. It was not a great poem just as this is not a great paper. And just like that poem, the specifics of this paper will be forgotten moments after it leaves my hand. You won’t remember it either except for the fact that the teacher said he fucked your sister in the marginal notes and actually used the word “fucked.” This poet though will never forget that night. He finishes his love poem, there’s polite applause and Ruth springs from nowhere, I mean just outta nowhere, and kisses the guy full on the lips. She nearly tackled him. Then she turned and sat back down. Her friends were laughing at the poet, laughing and laughing cause he was beet red. But he didn’t see them. He saw your sister. And I saw your sister. And she wasn’t laughing. No one will ever admit this but if they do something publicly that’s even remotely about love they want someone to do exactly what your sister did. And she knew it. She saw that poet, saw what he was going through and did that for him.
— This point is tautological. You never understand the details you’re not told.
— The surest proof that someone knows nothing is when they think they know everything.
— I don’t trust people who tell me that someone else will be okay.
— This paragraph doesn’t add anything to your central argument. In fact, I’m still unclear on your central argument.
— I don’t know what you’re trying to tell me.
— You’re 18 and writing about love. What can you tell me about love? What do you know that I don’t know?
— I can tell you what you don’t know. I know what I was thinking when I broke up with your sister. It wasn’t working anymore and it wasn’t working in a way that if we tried to fix it, if we poured ourselves into it even more, it would poison the good times we’d had. She asked me why I was breaking up with her, why I didn’t want to work on it, why I wouldn’t talk about it and I couldn’t tell her cause there was no way to make that make sense.
— I remembered a weekend. We rode the train out of Dublin. We went south and got off at a random stop because we’d been spending every night in the tourist bars and it was miserable because when you’re in love, wherever you are, you feel like you’re home. At least we did. I did. And I didn’t want to rot in some tourist bar and feel like I wasn’t exactly where I needed to be. So we got off at this little seaside town and there was a giant hill with a cross on top. And she looks at me and, yes, of course we’re going to climb that hill and yes, see the cross and yes, look out over the ocean and yes, just feel like the world is vast and limitless and just us. Just us. We took a path that ran around the base of the hill that we thought would take us to the top, but it never did. We walked for miles until we ended up on the shore, far away from everything. It was warm and dark and there was no way we were going to find the train at that hour. So we spent the night on the beach making love and staring out at the waves and just standing and letting the cold sea water lap over our toes, so cold, so cold. She splashed me and I tried to splash her, which just led to me chasing her across the beach. The moonlight, her skin, her red hair trailing behind her and she was laughing, laughing, laughing. That’s what I was thinking of when we broke up. She asked me, “What will I do?” I didn’t say anything. I was remembering the beach and the poet and I thought, I don’t know what will happen to me, but you? You? You will be okay. I haven’t forgotten her. Even now when I think of her I see her run on, run on, run on.
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