Subject: Lay Off the Lays
Larry, emailing because you aren’t in your office, despite the fact that we have a division meeting in forty-five minutes, and you’ve skipped the last three. Whatever. My question for you is, why must my office hours be spent handing Kleenex to some wailing girl? Am I really the appropriate person to assuage the latest heart you’ve broken? And their hearts all break in precisely the same way, along the same fault-line, as if these girls were mass-produced. They might disagree about the Metaphysical poets, but they all have the same fidgety feet that swing like metronomes, and the same susceptibility to you. I must say, I feel very little identification. I would never cry in the office of a virtual stranger who has a stack of papers to grade. I would never tell someone with whom prior conversations had been limited to Donne’s Holy Sonnets that I wanted to die. Die fucking elsewhere! is what I want to tell these girls. Crawl down the hall to Larry Avanti’s office, and expire on his threshold. “I know you and Professor Avanti are friends,” they say (funny how they refer to you by title). That’s how they always start. “But,” they say, and I scramble for Kleenex. Seriously, Larry: I’m tired. “Talk to him,” I told this latest iteration, and she said you avoid her. She tried to call, she said, but your wife picked up. Without meaning to, I nodded. I know how quickly Veronica can get to a damn phone, as if she has caster wheels instead of feet. Why don’t they have some dignity, poor things? I did, for fuck’s sake. No one saw me shed a tear over you. And why don’t you exert some restraint? I hardly care anymore; the students are Veronica’s problem. Except they bawl in my office, except they have some strange intuition about you and me that surfaces in the conscious thought that I might have influence over you: “I know you and Professor Avanti are friends.” So, on the off-chance they are right, I’m asking you, as a “friend,” to stop fucking the undergrads, at least the ones in my classes, to stop cracking them down the middle, because for God’s sake, Larry, I can’t suture them, or protect you.
Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the English Department at Mills College. Her fiction has been nominated for Pushcart Prizes and Best of the Net 2016 and long-listed for Wigleaf’s Top 50. Her fiction is published or forthcoming in Arroyo Literary Review, Atticus Review, Bird’s Thumb, Breakwater Review, Broad!, Cleaver, Crack the Spine, descant, Fiction Southeast, 580 Split, The Gettysburg Review, Gravel, Hobart, Hotel Amerika, Indiana Review, Jellyfish Review, JMWW, Literary Orphans, Moon City Review, Oakland Review, Parcel, Sixfold, SNReview, Squalorly, Valparaiso Fiction Review, and Word Riot. She is working on a novel and a short story collection.
Photo by Tamaki Sono