I am intimately connected to “A Prayer for Owen Meany” by John Irving and “Two on a Tower” by Thomas Hardy because of her. “King Lear” by William Shakespeare was a harder sell and failed to secure real estate in the literature district of my heart. Shakespeare is so 1616, after all. The paper I wrote comparing “Two on a Tower” and “King Lear” received a solid A. I still have it. Maybe I owe Bill a little something-something. That last sentence and my well-crafted paper can be your something-something, okay Bill?
Mary was my second English teacher in post-secondary spaces. Richard Harrison was my first, and I developed an immediate crush on him, too, but it didn’t stick. I liked Mary because she was who I wished I could be. She liked herself enough to give no fucks what we thought of her. Mary wasn’t hanging around for bullshit, and if we wanted what she offered, we would keep up. If we committed to keep up, she would give us the best of herself. And here’s a fucking kleenex so stop crying, okay?
“Just a few days ago, I told a friend that I have realized that I have no grace. My goodness,” she wrote in a recent email after I thanked her for not laughing me out of her office the day I presented her with a copy of Douglas Coupland’s “All Families are Psychotic.” You’re very gracious, I said. I wrote my favourite quote from the book on the inside cover. I gave her that book almost eleven years ago to mark the end of our student-teacher relationship. The exchanged words between then and now had me thinking Coupland was the wrong choice for purposes of showing gratitude and wooing a creature like Mary.
“I’m a fan of interesting thinkers, Shannon, and Coupland is an interesting thinker.” See: gracious.
It had been two years since our last exchange. A couple weeks ago Mary reached out to see if I could help her nephew find a place to live in Central Alberta. She later found me on LinkedIn and noticed I moved and that I have a blog.
She left a comment. On my blog. Where I write.
I silently screamed. My commas do their own thing and I have to think with great effort to decide which effect/affect to use. Even when I look it up. But I’ll never again question its/it’s or split infinitives (even though I still sometimes use them anyway). Thanks for that, Mary!
Her emails are sensible and lean. I attempt to meet her cadence in my replies, keeping arm-flaps and squeals to a minimum, using emoticons and exclamation points sparingly. I read once that the overuse of exclamation points is the mark of an insecure writer. Here, on my blog, I have not managed to present myself as anything resembling polished. I was not writing for the Marys of my life. I was writing for… the me’s! (I know that’s not possessive, okay, but ‘mes’ looked bizarre.)
Mary taught me the rules and I’m breaking them. It’s fun. I’m writing and that’s what my heart likes. Let’s take a page from Mary’s book (she has a couple, you know) and give no fucks what others think of us. Mary doesn’t like me because I’m her. Mary likes me because I’m me.
Why do these things take me so long to figure out?
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