I need you to write what you know.
Her eyes had leveled with mine.
I need you to be raw and unforgiving. None of this stuff about elves or outer space. That’s not what we need right now.
“I can’t believe she said that to you.” Keisha’s eyes narrow. “Who does that woman think she is?”
“Kinda stupid,” Andy adds. “She’s like opposite side of the spectrum from you. She’s writing about cocaine dealers sleeping with touch-hungry girls.”
“All writing’s subjective,” I say before Keisha has a fit. “She just doesn’t like mine.”
“It makes me so mad how they will praise something that’s absolute garbage to the high heavens, and they don’t say a word to those other writers about the ‘strong female character trope.’ I almost screamed.”
“It’s crazy how different you are outside of class, Keisha.” Andy laughs
I like talking to them. They say all the crude, brutally honest things that I’m thinking. We’re all in our own worlds. Andy weaves poetry into his tales about live paintings and ancient Japanese myths. Keisha puts a new spin on Poe stories with broken-necked birds penetrating the neck to pluck out the arteries. And me? I write what I want.
I don’t write for the world. I write for me, what I need.
“Guys, I hate stories with sad endings.” I stir my lemon water until all the seeds and fibrous tissue have floated off the bottom of my glass.
“Yeah, but that’s what real life is.”
“Maybe her life,” Keisha growls.
“We should’ve done this more often. Going out to eat after class? I wish we’d done this sooner than the last day of class,” I say.
“Yeah…” Andy’s too busy going through his comment sheets to be paying much attention.
“Don’t listen to any of them. I really like your writing.”
I return Keisha’s smile. “Yeah, I’m not changing. I’m not worried about what they think.”
“And the real endings where everyone dies, or they’re all alone or – Wow…” Keisha puts her head in her hands. “I mean I can’t say much because my characters always die.”
“Unless they’re already dead,” Andy mutters.
“Yep. Exactly.” Keisha and I laugh.
“I’m not worried about it.”
I’m truly not. I never say anything but smile and take whatever criticism is thrown my way. Keisha does the same, though she has a very fiery opinion outside of class.
“Guys, I think I come off as cocky when someone criticizes me,” Andy says, looking up. We finished our burritos nearly an hour ago, but none of us have anything better to do than mull over the biases of others. “You know, because I always laugh and say ‘okay.'”
“You do,” I say as Keisha nods. “No one says anything much to you because you seem so arrogant about it.”
Andy laughs but doesn’t correct me. He was, after all, voted the best writer in our class.
He glances at me. “Hey if you get up, will you get me some more water.”
“I’m not getting up, Andy.”
It truly doesn’t bother me, but I like when my friends agree when I say, “I mean, I don’t like reading about eating disorders and kids sneaking into bars, but I’m careful not to be opinionated about that. I just talk about the style and what could be done to make me care about the characters.”
I like it when my friends get angry when I say, “You know, I’ve never even written about elves or outer space.”
“You’re just the opposite of her,” Andy says. “So she’ll probably hate whatever you do.”
“I just hate people,” Keisha adds.
“We need to hang out more,” I say. “Keep up with each other even after we graduate.”
“Yeah, start our own writing group. With our own calligraphy pen. You know I still cannot believe–”
“You’re so sassy.” Andy laughs, nearly choking on his water. “I’ve never seen this side of you.”
(Photo: Toa Heftiba)