[Originally published July 11, 2013.]
Look at me. Look at me. I’m a mess.
Wasn’t enough to make me one distended scene, to fill me with “It felt like forever”s and words like serenade. Wasn’t enough to email me around so your friends could laugh at me. I mean, look at me. I had a Snickers for breakfast. I’m wearing your ex’s boxers. I’m a fucking mess.
It’s going to take some time to realize how to fix me, and even more time to realize I shouldn’t be fixed. I should be thrown into a dumpster. I should be deleted in one of those dead blue-screen catastrophes your second short story is wishing for. But for now you’re going to look longingly at me as your first moment of true genius. Let’s face it: you’re going to print out copies of me and give them to your co-workers. You’re going to make me sit there on the desks of MFA faculty, sorted into the What-Even-Is-This pile. You’re going to tinker with my words and matchmake me with the thesaurus on your mom’s work-from-home desk. I’m going to be everything to you. Which is the only line of dialogue you put in me.
In a week I’ll be up for workshop, which your first poem says is like giving a bunch of undergraduate biology students scalpels and asking them to perform heart surgery. Most of us don’t make it out alive. We bleed out right there in the classroom, our hearts breaking like you made them in my last paragraph, everyone’s damn hearts breaking, just a bunch of important breaking, broken hearts. Except here I am, in my boxers. Got a dozen other Snickers in the freezer. I DVR-ed an episode of Million Dollar Listing. Go ahead. Stab me in the heart; see if I care.
Which is another line in me. Except you forgot my semicolon.
So here’s the rub. I’m going to sit here in your computer and, like, I don’t know, wait for you to poke me around a little. When I’m up for discussion you won’t listen to a word anyone says. Thank God. People are going to be talking shit about me and you’re just going to think No one understands me and I don’t deserve this. The professor will say something like This is an interesting moment and I’ll know she’s just taking pity on me because, well, look at me. I’m a mess.
The Asian woman in the rice hat on my third page is original and fresh, sure, but maybe you could’ve made her speak in English that isn’t more broken than your sense of self-worth. Maybe your narrator shouldn’t be sixty-six and dying of a cancer you know nothing about. Maybe there’s another way to write me.
Except, wait, no. Don’t touch me. Slide me into the trash. Withdraw me from submission. Avert your gaze. Because, well, look at me. I’m a little cross-eyed and am pretty sure I ate two lunches. I’m your first short story. And I’m a mess.