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My Rejects

22 Dec

I like to think of my work as my babies and I an unfit mother; I want to pawn my beloved ones off on the kindest, most gentlest, first person who is willing to take them, so that they have a chance at a better life.

Below are a couple of my most recent rejects. I think they deserve a good home. So, if you’re reading this, and you want to publish them, just let me know.

This one was submitted to a magazine. It was rejected for not being uplifting enough.

The New Year’s Party at a lull, David decides that something needs to be done. He suggests the game “He’s Perfect But.” The rules are simple: one person asks a group if they would date a hypothetical man (or woman, really) if that person were perfect save for one tremendous, often bizarre defect. David goes first. “Okay girls,” he says. He takes a sip of his beer. “He’s perfect but—no matter how long he showers, he always smells like peanut butter.” Courtney, Jasmine, and Alyssa all vote that yes they would date him. Hailey, who has a peanut allergy, says that she wouldn’t, as long as the smell is somehow rooted in real peanuts, which David claims it is. Everyone agrees that this caveat makes it less fun. David is too embarrassed to change his mind.

“Okay, I have one,” Chad says, drunk. He looks at David’s sister, Amanda. “He’s perfect but—” He scans the room. “His skin is made of dead leaves.” A seemingly bottomless silence falls over the room. David shakes his head. Somebody says the word “asshole,” thereby proving that the silence is much more shallow than previously thought. Amanda says nothing, but nods her head in the affirmative, north/south manner. Gasps. Grins. From the back of the room, a sound arises like tissue paper being wadded up. Jason, a figure silent until now, stands. No one can tell if he is angry or sad or jubilant. He is totally unreadable. No one can figure out where his eyes are. Or his mouth or nose holes. All sit in silence, awaiting his response. Amanda stands, her eyes pleading. As if on wires, the two  leap toward one another and embrace. Amanda starts to kiss Jason, but she can’t find his mouth, so she kisses each inch of his face with identical passion. She starts to speak, but is silenced when Jason raises one leafy hand to her lips. A bug flies out. Wordlessly, the pair walk out of the apartment and into the night and when the winter breeze comes just blow away, away, away.

This piece was rejected for the same reason:

You’re standing there, your hands folded at your crotch. It smells like someone is wearing too much perfume in lieu of taking a shower. Overhead, red and teal bulbs shine in their sockets and onto the body like some stage show caught in stasis.

It’s crowded but quiet, everyone speaking at a whisper or just above that, everyone in tiny circles that seem to drift aimlessly through the room like flotsam. There is a boy there, standing in front of the coffin and you want to pull him away, tell him that things are all right, comfort him as though this is some minor and rare misfortune that he has no reason to concern himself with. You put your hands in your pockets and examine the scuff marks on your shoes.

Earlier this year, I was working with a member of the KERA staff on a podcast for young, aspiring writers in North Texas. We had met several times, gone through round after round of edits on my piece, even recorded (then re-recorded) my reading. The theme I was writing for was “Stalking and Social Media” or something like that. Anyway, one day, the whole thing fell through, killing any chance I had at meeting/marrying Diane Rheaume or sitting on Garrison Keillor’s lap.

Here it is, though.

I go to your page and see a picture of you, smiling. It is night time in the photo. I can see street lights in the background and you’re wearing a toboggan and your cheeks are red. It must be cold. From the position of your shoulder and the way your head is turned, it appears you took this photo yourself. Were you alone? It looks like you were. Alone outside on a cold winter night. What were you doing? And why did you take a picture of it? Did you step outside, realize it was night and think ‘I better get a shot of this’ or ‘When’s the next time I’m going to see a street light?’?

You Like so many things. You Like 196 things. Gosh. I feel like I only like like four things (my girlfriend, whiskey, jeans and the Game of Thrones books). You’re so much more diversified than me—so much more worldly. How do I do that? How do I grow to be the type of man whose life philosophy is so broad and sweeping that he can Like the pages of both Kenny Powers and the Dalai Lama? You must be tremendous.

Your taste in films and music is impeccable. You are the best at culture and open-mindedness and everyone needs to know it. Please list the music a real human is allowed to listen to.

As for your favorite books, it’s clear that you know your stuff there as well. Your book list begins with the most serious of Serious Literature—The Bible. Next, you’ve listed On the Road by Jack Kerouac—the undergraduate’s bible. You admire the protagonist’s sense of adventure, and you see that in yourself. You want other people to see that in yourself too. You also quote the book in your “Quotes” section—the line about how you only have time for people who are mad for life, or whatever he says. You long to be around those who live life to its fullest—people who grab life by the belt loops and dry hump it until it faints from exhaustion. That novel has done so much for so many people by allowing them to believe they’re looking into a reflection of themselves rather than a portrait of someone else.

Your quotes could be verses. Most are, in fact. The best ones are the ones you wrote yourself, though. Your wisdom will echo through the halls of my mind forever, helping me in my times most dire. I wish I had read “Life is a beer: Drink it” a few weeks ago. It could have helped me get over my breakup. And man, do I wish I would have had “Life’s hard, but so are diamonds” when my sister died. I have it now, though, so it’ll be a lot easier when my other sister dies. I’m ready.

You have a lot of pictures up of you and your girlfriend other kissing each other. This makes me uneasy, because these pictures are only a few clicks away from pictures of you with your last girlfriend.

What makes it worse is how similar the photos themselves are. Your smile in each is identical; their smiles in each are identical. Even the two women look similar—it is clear that you have a type; in both shots you’re holding the camera yourself, and in the same way.

Here’s what bothers me, though: you seem no happier with one woman than the other. And they seem happy, too, but it’s sort of sad because they’re the ones being swapped out and you’re staying the same, which I know doesn’t make a lot of sense for me to be upset about, since if I were on their page, I’d probably be only a handful of clicks from them and their previous partner, and you’d be the one being swapped, but still; something about this is weird. I feel like your ex is glaring at me as I look at you and your new girl together. I feel like we’re in a big room and she’s somewhere in it, pissed as hell.

I ignore the feeling as best I can and continue to comb through the pictures of you and your new love at Epcot Center. Your last girlfriend isn’t as pretty as your current one, and I bet you think so too, and I bet that’s why you haven’t deleted the pictures of the old girlfriend. So people can see how you’ve elevated yourself. Maybe so your ex can too.

I see that your mother has posted on your wall. My mom writes on my Facebook wall sometimes. I used to never respond. Then I saw a movie with a line about a woman who has no one to talk to and it reminded me of my mom and made me sad, so now I respond, because typing “haha” below one of her posts is just too simple a thing not to do. But your mom has posted a comment on your wall and you haven’t responded. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’re a bad person, it just means that you’re busy; you’re busy Facebooking other things—more pressing things. I see you Liked “Diet Pepsi” forty-five minutes after your mother posted a comment on your wall, notifying you that she loves you and that she hopes you have a good week at school. I imagine the forty five minutes that followed her posting were all spent in exhaustive research and soul searching as to which diet cola to throw your support behind. People were depending on you for that.

But I can’t help but wonder if your mother could have used a “Thanks” or “Love you too” under that comment more than the Pepsi Corporation needed one more “Like” to go with the 670,000 it already had.

After I’ve read everything in your Facebook, I pause and reflect. You’re out living your real life somewhere right now. And here I am, knee-deep in my own life, catching the snapshots, the super-edited director’s cut, the highlight reel of yours. Is this who you are? Surely not.

So what else is there? Things feel missing. They feel hidden.Where is your sad day? Did you cry at the end of Marley and Me? Have you ever peed and it smelled weird and you thought you had diabetes? Did you have a sandwich for lunch?

And why do I care?

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