The first day of class, Dr. Templeton tells us to gather into our designated groups. We scoot our desks into a circle facing each other. I’m in a group of four and one of them probably in his late 30s. I didn’t really think about students being older and joining our class. I always thought college as high school but part two. Worry starts to rise as they probably have so much more experience than I do. Experience translates to more material to write about, especially in nonfiction but happens in fiction as well.
Dr. Templeton tells us to begin and we start to share our critiques. We start with the person on my left going clockwise, putting me as last. I try to pump myself up, save the best for last right?
The first piece follows a nonfiction trip to Mexico. The story reads as delightful and whimsical despite the poverty the student witnessed between cities. I give my recollection of Mexico from visiting family and tell him I would like to see more about the people he met. I mention providing details give a deeper, stronger account. The older man’s piece goes second. He’s fiddling with a laptop as we discuss his piece. I wonder if he’s making corrections on the fly but I soon realize he isn’t paying attention at all. I’m more surprised, however, with his resemblance to Oliver’s dad than his attention span.
I dwell on his face a little too long and I miss the third person. We now start on my piece and anxiety creeps into my body. Every muscle tenses wanting me to bolt. I take a deep breaths, attempting to settle the nerves after each criticism.
“So who is this Jill character to you? Is this nonfiction? I think you should show who this person is rather than explain in your prose.”
“Yeah I was left wanting more about this character. She shows up so briefly but it seems she means much to you.”
My cheeks become flushed, “I-I don’t know who Jill is. She was someone I met and thought was really cool. Though she’s a smoker and it makes me sad that she does.”
“So tell her. But it also seems like there is something more to this story you are not letting on. Tell us.”
“I don’t know!” I yell out, surprised with my outburst. I notice I’m standing and sit back down. ”She makes me feel weird. I don’t know.”
“Well, you better find out,” Dr. Templeton says, sharp eyes peering down at me, “She’s here for a visit.”
Jill is standing at the doorway in shock. Heat rises off the back of my neck as tears start to well up in my eyes.
“Jill,” I murmur.
“I make you feel weird, huh?” she says as she backs out into the hallway. I run over but the hallways are empty.
My breath catches, forcing me awake. Hot tears spill onto my pillow. I sit up in bed hugging my knees, slowly realizing the dream wasn’t real.