This is how down to the bone it gets, folks:
Me: So I printed out everything I had written for the MFA program before I came to the residency.
My advisor: And?
Me: And the theme I see running through my nonfiction work is this: If you look at all the possible stories I could tell in all my lifetime, the ones I’ve chosen to tell all place the narrator in a situation before she is ready for it.
My advisor: Maybe that’s a metaphor for what’s happening to you now.
I’m sitting at tonight’s reading, first the poet who won the Oregon Book Award last year and second will be my advisor from my first semester. The poet moves me to tears, and I rush to the bathroom during the break between readers to pee and get some tissue to blow my nose. I catch a glimpse of Cass sitting in the back row on my way out and acknowledge her politely with eye contact, but nothing more.
In the bathroom, relief. There is one other woman in the row of stalls and somehow, we’ve selected the ones right next to each other. We pee without talking but a wall of energy hits me, then a crack through my heart and I don’t know how or why I know this but I KNOW that the woman next to me is the lover Cass cheated on me with. I sweat with anger. Cass promised me she wouldn’t bring her, promised me she understood how that would eat me alive, promised me she wouldn’t give mea face to put into all those movies I played in my mind. I can hardly believe it but the feeling is undeniable, fierce, like flames beneath my skin.
We flush at the same time.
Unlock the doors.
Stroll to the sinks where I dare to look at her reflection in the mirror and before I know it the words are rolling out of me:
“What’s your name?” I say.
“Elizabeth,” she says. “What’s yours?”
I sigh. “Katey.”
She pauses. The water, like tears, dripping off her fingertips. “Oh.”