“It feels good to hold a pencil in my hand again. It’s hard to write, but I need to get my hand back in position, get my muscles going again. This is it. This is it.
“Should I feel bad about scribbling across the front page? I don’t. This is more important than ‘November 29, 2019’ or ‘The Paducah Sun’ or anything else scrawled on here by the press. I’m writing again. It’s good.
“My hands are getting warmer. How could I have taken for granted those gloves I used to always keep in my pockets? Gotta keep writing, or my fingers will go stiff again. I need to keep writing.
“This margin is getting crumpled. I was never able to keep my hand upright, like my mom was taught. I just drag it across the page. My hand used to get covered in gray dust from raking it across the words. Curse of a left-handed person, I guess. Graphite. That was it. Graphite is the word.
“I’m going to need to get a new patch for the box. I grabbed a comforter today out of a dumpster down by the Market House Theater. It only has one hole in it, though it’s thin. How did this happen? I was going to go to law school. I was going to apply for a job. I was going. I was going.
“It doesn’t matter now. I can write about that later. I just need to keep my hands warm.
“Screw you, Trump, and your fucking headlines. ‘State of the Union Reveals New Plan to Improve Race Relations.’ Yeah, and race relations wouldn’t be so bad if you weren’t a raging bigot. At least that ridiculous Wall idea didn’t pan out.
“Only forty more years until our oil runs out, if that statistic stuck in my brain from Bio is still holding. Have we decreased our consumption at all? Well, at least one thing is different. When I learned that statistic, I was sure I’d live to see us run out.”
She twirls her pen absently as she waits for the announcer to call her name. “I’m not a success story,” she mouths once again. “I’m someone who returned to par from below the bar.” She liked the assonance, but she was starting to shake, as she always did before a speaking event. She continues to mouth the speech, twiling her pen—until it drops to the floor with a clack. She puts aside her little pamphlet and reaches down to grab it.
As she reaches down, the pamphlet flutters to the floor, and she grabs it as well as the pen in one swoop. The paper crinkles. Her mind travels back. Back to the Christmas she hitched a ride home. Back to the family who welcomed her not as a failure, but as a prodigal daughter. Back to the house that sheltered her in her childhood, even into adulthood, and she wondered why she hadn’t come home before.
The speaker calls her name, and she walks up to the podium, tucking the pen into her pocket. The pamphlet is left behind where it drifted back to the floor.
She tucks her hair behind her ear and smiles on a memory, before squaring her feet and looking ahead. She begins her speech.
It passes in a blur, but she manages to hold onto her confident persona as she speaks. When it concludes to polite applause, she exits the theater on shaking legs, and makes it to a water fountain.
“Kristi, how are you, my friend?” The voice was familiar. A professor she’d had? She turns.
“Dr. Alvarez! I haven’t seen you in forever. Ten years, right?” She beams, relieved to see someone she knows.
“Yeah, it’s been a long while.” He pauses, his look sincere. “I had no idea you were, you know—everything that happened.”
“Yeah, um, well, yeah.” She rubs the back of her neck, somewhat abashedly. “But you really got me out of it, you know. I wrote it down. I wrote everything down, and then it got picked up, and that’s how I got started. You always did say to keep writing.”
He smiles softly. “Yeah. I’m so glad you’ve gotten past all that. You know, you could always have contacted me. I’m always here for all of my students.”
Then it’s her turn to smile. “Thanks. I really appreciate it.”
“Ah, well, I shouldn’t keep you. I should let you get back to the convention.”
“Likewise. It was wonderful seeing you, Dr. Alvarez.”
“Same to you, Dr. Street.”
She puts her hands into her pockets, and her hand touches warm plastic. She takes out the pen, clicks it twice, and places it back, before turning and walking out the door.