Literary Hustlin’

by G.T.

Several months ago, I submitted one of my first short stories to one of the many fledgling little online journals around. Later that night, I had a dream that the editors of the magazine had read my story and were so appalled by my story that they laughed hysterically, and sent me a rejection letter, telling me that I write like a girl. Now women need not take offense to this comment. I interpreted that comment as a play off of “crying like a girl” or, in baseball, “hitting like a girl”. And if it’s any consolation to the especially sensitive, I do recall shedding a tear in the dream, because I was hurt by the rejection. But only a single tear, because I don’t cry like a girl or anything like that.
Well I submitted another short story. The first in months, actually. And I had a dream of receiving a package from the literary journal, containing a t-shirt. Like many independent journals, they cannot offer monetary compensation. This particular journal, though, offers contributor copies of the print journal, and a t-shirt bearing their logo. Hopefully, it’s a good sign.

Here’s some poetry.

Ethan L. (970) – A fraternity brother who joined Delta Tau Delta in the fall of 2009. When I first met him, hardly two weeks into the Fall ’09 semester, we were the last guys standing after a long party at the fraternity. We sat down in the fraternity’s library and looked through old college yearbooks. We talked about our pursuits in life, and what IIT had to do with our personal aspirations. Not much, as we both explained to one another.
As of recently, Ethan did what I did, and that is take a leave of absence. He’s got his soul searching to do. Before I went to sleep earlier this morning, I noticed his latest Facebook status:

“needs to be in chicago planting things in abandoned lots, but is also everywhere else.”

Ethan is passionate about preserving the planet. Environmentalism. I dig that. Back in high school, when competing on the speech team, I wrote and performed a speech about the benefits of shade grown coffee. That’s as green as I ever got, but I respect anybody who stands up against eroding the Earth. I feel bad, though, because I was smoking while I wrote this poem. At 9:17am.

“Below gravel and
broken glass you
stick your hand into
dead Earth abandon.
In the blue shadows
of industrial
winters you prove a
point. That a flower
can grow.”

And after writing that, I felt very unified with nature. I put out my cigarette and poured another cup of coffee.

It was early in the morning. Even earlier in Colorado, but lately I’ve begun texting two hours after the poem in case the recipient doesn’t respond.

11:04am, Me: “I happened across your Facebook status. Thought you could use a word or two of inspiration.”

11:19am, Ethan: “Thanks. you are awesome!”

I’ll do what I can to kick the smoking habit, Ethan. Thank you for looking beyond that flaw of mine.

11:25am, Me: “Ditto, homie. And by the way, my favorite flowers are azaleas, or whatever they call those purple ones. Keep up the good cause.”

Faizan B. (708) – Oh, Faizan. High school pal. A good guy, always waking me up when I began snoring too loudly in AP Biology. Happens to be a Shiite. I remember these things. At 9:52am.

“The bells of sand
streets rang in time
for salah. A Western
Ali kneeled upon the
green grass, denim clad,
and spoke Eastward,
his white tee
facing the pillars.”

Salah: prayer time. Pillars: the pillars of Islam. Eastward: Kaaba, or the center of Islam, in Mecca. Who says I’m not well rounded?

Faizan offered no response. After I hopped out of the shower, I stepped out for a smoke (again, sorry Ethan), and sent a text message that may break the ice a bit better than a random poem.

12:19pm, Me: “I hope this is Faizan’s #. If not, I definitely just sent that previous text to you, who may not understand what it was. Faizan?”

12:20pm, Faizan: “This is Faizan. I’m sorry new phone. Who is this”

This is the second time that somebody has called me “New Phone”. It’s text messaging, so I have to allow grammar to slide.

12:31pm, Me: “Who is this? I’ve been getting that too often. Be more creative.”

12:47pm, Faizan: “Wallahi I don’t know. Loved the text tho”

I will admit that I’m not sure what Wallahi meant. Still don’t even as I try searching for it’s meaning. Central Timor, of the Republic of Indonesia? I guess that’s creative. It’s certainly obscure. Must be post-modern.

12:48pm, Me: “Much love, homes. It’s George.”

12:51pm, Faizan: “N*ggaaaaaaaaaa”

I’m not accustomed to censorship. Hopefully that’ll suffice.

12:54pm, Me: “Haha. What it is?”

12:58pm, Faizan: “U know I’m Shia?”

1:02pm, Me: “Yes. In fact, I was going to mention Raka’ah, but I only get 160 characters for these poems.”

Raka’ah, being the formal prayer that Shia muslims practice five times daily. Educate yourself. And didn’t I say that these poems would be specific to each person in some way?

1:05pm, Faizan: “Haha nice man. Good shit. How are u”

I was driving to the gas station at this time, for a pack of cigarettes, and on my way to pick up lunch. It’s not safe to text and drive. So I was trying to manage this conversation and the next one at traffic lights and a drive thru.

1:18pm, Me: “Literary hustlin’. How’s life? Dentistry, right?”

1:31pm, Faizan: “Hahahaha that’s the George I know. Yea man. Hopefully”

I thought of texting Faizan, “How’s cheesy white people land a.k.a. Wisconsin?” Because he goes to college in Wisconsin, but there’s already enough offensive dialogue going on in this post. And mentioning that didn’t improve matters.

Gintare S. (815) – Earlier, I made a reference to being a member of my high school’s speech team. This girl, Gintare, was also on the team, and that is where I met her. There’s a long story involving Gintare. Here’s the short of it.
Gintare was one of my first high school crushes. However, so was another girl on the team. Through the speech team grape vine, I found out that both girls actually liked me. Now any teenage guy who would find himself in this situation would likely be flattered. I, on the other hand, found myself in the same predicament that I still struggle with today. Whenever I’m interested in any girl, or know of a girl that is interested in me, I have some type of existential crisis. I really don’t know what the fuck to call it. I’m not sure what to call it. I start overthinking the circumstances in my life and how they would affect that particular girl. I start questioning my own competence, or lack thereof. My self-worth and every aspect of my life is suddenly put on the table. Personally, it’s kind of humorous to me, but in the end, I’m usually despised by females. Being a smart-ass doesn’t improve matters, as I’ve also come to realize.
In the end, I chose against asking either of them out. My reason: choosing one would hurt the other, and all three of us were on the same team, and since those stupid anime kids were annoying, there weren’t very many people getting along with me on the team in the first place. Result: both girls despised me, and nobody on the speech team liked me. It almost made me reconsider disrespecting those stupid anime kids. Almost.
I recall Gintare’s mom having a bumper sticker on her car that read something in Lithuanian, followed by an exclamation point. I asked what it meant. Gintare explained that it was a Lithuanian joke, and the sticker read, “Don’t be Stupider”. She laughed. There’s something about the humor of former Soviet bloc countries that I don’t understand. However, I could certainly use it in a poem about my own romantic ineptitude. At 11:01am.

“Glass Bottle sips
soften the bashful
nerves and the
unspeaking heart.
The lack of professing
Don’t be stupider,
and know not it’s
right language.”

Quick note: The reason I have Gintare’s number (I didn’t own a cell phone in high school because I was too cool for one) was due to a New Year’s Eve party, when after copious cheap wine, I so rudely, yet unapologetically, took someone’s phone (a number for tomorrow, by the way), and started looking for cell phone numbers. I found Gintare’s number, began texting her, and went out for coffee with her the next day. I was unemployed at the time and had only eleven dollars, but it was enough for two cappucinos. Haven’t spoken to her since.

12:01pm, Gintare: “Who is this?”

Seriously! Nobody has my number. Well, I guess I can’t blame some people.

12:28pm, Me: “Jeez. Nobody knows who I am these days. Unless you’re a wrong number, of course. Gintare?”

12:30pm, Gintare: “Yeah, its me…. but idk who u are”

12:36pm, Me: “Before I tell you, what did you think of the poem? Others have been raving about my poetry, and some have called me a weirdo. Your thoughts?”

After extensive analysis and explication, Gintare offered her take on my poetic prowess.

12:39pm, Gintare: “Its alright.”

12:45pm, Me: “Well it beats being told to fuck off. It’s George!”

Here is where I was expecting the ‘fuck off’.

12:46pm, Gintare: “Ohhhh ok. Whats up?? How u been?”

My emotion is often expressed through my poetry.

12:51pm, Me: “Alright.”

She didn’t offer a response. I felt as if she didn’t want to hear from me. I tried to keep the conversation flowing.

1:07pm, Me: “And how are you???”

1:23pm, Gintare: “Good good. Keeping myself busy, working. Thats bout it.”

1:27pm, Me: “That’s cool. I hardly work, which is unfortunate when I’m broke. Otherwise, I’m okay with it. So I spend all day writing…”

My conversation with Gintare continued for a couple more texts, and stopped after I asked if she got the “don’t be stupider” reference. The conversation was rather placid.

Romantic ineptitude. Existential crises. Unable to order anything off a menu in under thrity minutes. My life is a perpetual series of punchlines filled to the brim with indecision, overanalyzing, and triviality borne out of arbitrary thoughts.