The summer we first moved in together, Mike and I traveled to Iowa for the Iowa Summer Writing Festival. The University of Iowa houses the finest creative writing program in the country and for many years, I wanted to be accepted into their competitive coven which I was sure offered in its curricula free cookies. Who doesn’t love cookies?! You don’t? You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch.
I chose a short story class led by Famous Female Writer. During the week, we read short stories and analyzed them, dissecting their parts, highlighting what succeeded and how we could work that into our own writing. It was also during that week that I swallowed one of Mike’s percocets. That was beyond stupid. If there is a level of stupid higher than downing someone else’s medication, it will be featured in the next episode of America’s Most Smartest Model (I can’t type that without cringing).
I thought that being stoned would heighten my creativity and I would be transformed into a font of literary genius. Because that’s what happens when you’re high, right? You channel the great writers who have walked through the University of Iowa. You do not sound at all like someone who can’t complete a coherent sentence without dropping a Simpsons quote or craving unnatural food combinations like watermelon and ranch dressing.
So it began hitting me during our discussion of Faulkner’s “Barn Burning” and after a few minutes of feeling floaty, my mouth soured. I started sweating. I rose from my chair, fled down the hallway and had a few seconds before my face met the toilet opening.
After throwing up violently, I thought I was well enough to head back. I thought, “You’re young, Mona! Shake it off! They need to know how you feel about this story, the arc, the voice, the tone! Don’t keep them from your geeeeniuuuus!”
When I got to my seat, I had enough strength to mention how the clock in Faulkner’s story had stopped before I had to end my own witty observation and excuse myself once again and head to the ladies.
One of the women, now a well-known children’s author, walked in behind me and asked if I was okay. I spoke to her shoes which was all I could see under the stall. I couldn’t go back to class, so I told her Easy Spirits that I wasn’t feeling well and would meet them later at dinner.
I had cheated myself out of an afternoon soaking in briliant ideas about literary theory and the state of modern fiction. I was robbed! By my own doing! I robbed myself! MAN VERSUS MAN!
After sleeping off the day, I found my class at the restaurant. They asked me how I was and I said I was fine, I didn’t know what came over me, dainty little flower I was! What? Misuse of percocets? Why I never! I’m sure I just mixed white wine with red! Tee-hee!
What still embarrasses me now is that instead of dining with one of the greatest female writers today and feasting on her knowledge of fiction and publishing, we were treated to her own story of inconvenient vomiting. And everyone agreed that it is never a good time to vomit. You’re never standing in the hair care aisle at Target, thinking, “Hmm. It’s 3:30! Now’s a good time to rolf.” The class chimed in with how they had thrown up at parties, backseats of cars, into the laps of Japanese dignitaries. And I had nothing to add because they were all part of my own tale.
I’m sure someone must have left with a good story, even if it was mine.