When I was done telling my little story you could have heard a pin drop in the classroom that suddenly seemed as large and cold as an auditorium. I gulped, and the sound my throat made reverberated like a fart off the walls. Pens doodled nervously. No one looked at anyone else.

“It’s charming, but we’re really not into fairy tales here,” said Gonzo. “We’re talking about life, real life, about gritty urban experiences—“

“But this was real,” I said, surprised at my own nerve, nerve that came from anger, anger that came from hurt.

There was audible giggling that burst here and there around the walls like so many rifle shots.

“Excuse me?” said Gonzo.

“It was real to me.”

“Well, that’s fine. Who’s next?” and that was the only feedback I got.

No one said “That was intense” to me as we left class. No one spoke to me at all. So I said goodbye to my classmates, goodbye to the couples making out in the little circular meeting spaces that were like pimples on the concrete upper level of the campus. I said goodbye to the slackers in baggy bell bottoms, fringes torn, staring down the dresses of girls from seats in the Circle Forum at the center of campus. I said farewell to the black women in babushkas and hollow eyed homeless men sleeping on the train, so long to the bus drivers and commuters standing tired and resolute in the Jefferson Park station, get lost to the frantic drivers cutting ahead of me in traffic, go away to the kids playing frantically on Orchard Street, who cares to my sister talking to a guy leaning on a motorcycle in the driveway, leave me alone to my mother making her spaghetti. I would share none of my work with them ever again. I didn’t need them; I would write only for myself, I would be my own best audience, my only audience.

I tore the pages with the Rootweavers story out of my notebook and left it, along with some Juicy Fruit gum, back by the awful construction area at the edge of the anonymous industrial park along the indiffeent train tracks and in the shadow of the heartless water tower. And I never wrote about them in my column and never told anyone about them, until now.

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