She just sat there for a moment—the pads of her five fingers pressed together, a pompous prayer, groping for an opening sentence. She had the swollen knuckles and dead eyes of a bean counter scholar. There were tomes of photocopied data on her desk.
This is the dramatic pause too much TV taught her, I thought, smiling noticeably—wholly inappropriate to a reprimanding—which this was. Her body language told me so—shoulders slumped, gaze toward the floor, spotty eye contact. She was non-verbally screaming her deep displeasure with my interruption of her very important work. But her shame, her repressed rage at her own base hypocrisy, was causing an internal conflict—that pinched look on her face. This internal conflict was, of course, also my fault. I mean, how dare I put her in this position! She had been ordered to reason with me, to lean on me, to artfully threaten me, to do whatever was necessary to shut me up!
You see, the word was out on campus. Suddenly, out of nowhere, I had become a “real writer!” my advanced writing students cheered. And you’re a Blogger?! I was. I was blogging about my Vietnam War-crazed father, my battered mother, my shell-shocked family. I owned up to my struggles with mental illness in my twenties. I discussed my desperate lapses into illegal drugs, and the psychiatric and cognitive behavioral therapy that eventually healed my childhood trauma. And I wrote about becoming a PhD student, a college professor, despite it all.
Today is not yesterday, I told my readers. Karma is all about choices, and I had made mine. I was a writer. I was simply going to write what I knew, to the best of my ability, until the world noticed. That was my plan, and I was following it religiously, almost obsessively. I was writing every day, up to six posts at a time: poetic bursts of flashback memory, random fractured family narratives.
“You’re like a faucet rusted open,” my doctoral advisor emailed me. She was reading, comparing me to Byron. The poet Maria Mazziotti Gillan—my former teacher and friend—sent emails praising my powerful poetics, my “strong voice!” The poet Martín Espada thanked me on Facebook for my courage. But worst of all: the students were reading. I was becoming a campus celebrity. This had to be stopped.
So, first came this “discussion” with my boss and former professor, in which I flatly refused to stop writing on my private blog. Next came the academic standard: an accusation of sexual harassment—emailed “anonymously,” of course. And I was not rehired—the following semester—to teach writing.
memoirs in fragments
By Charles Bivona