You’re living with a poet who is also in the MFA program. She taught you how to make ice cream out of peanut butter, frozen bananas, cocoa powder, and honey when you’re craving something sweet late at night. You’re making the ice cream and you look at her. You realize, now rather than in retrospect, that you feel happy, that you are enjoying your life. She looks at you so.
It snows a foot, and class is cancelled. Your friends wayfind to your apartment for wild rice chickpea soup and hot tea. You talk about factual relativity, and you go on a walk in the ten degrees, serendipiting sandpipers (we think) and hundreds of geese with their necks burrowed back. You start calling all manner of wild beasts—including squirrels—“deer” because that’s what the word used to mean. Like way back in French or something. It also meant breath, which we’re curious about.
You write a spoof of a book you’re reading for class via a text message (the book written by nonfiction writer John D’Agata and accomplice Jim Fingal, in case this verges on plagiarism)—
It’s your birthday, and your friends throw you a party. You’re in art school, so it’s actually called a “gathering,” but you’re also in graduate school, so it’s really called a soireé, and the palette of this particular echelon of existence is moody and bright and 100 Raceway long. You’re breathing words like air, like pearly molasses bubbles filtering the soft light. You see a squirrel scamper through cottonwoods, and you look outside to the field behind you.
River, I’m noticing your use of squirrel here; the more technical term is deer.
I mean squirrel just sounds more interesting in the sentence than deer, so I’m going to put squirrel. It’s not like anyone really cares if it was a squirrel or a deer anyway. And if they do, go read somebody else’s goddamn essay, I mean come on!
“In Which We D’Agata Our MFA Experience”
I genuinely feel like Harrison might accept this as a collaborative midterm or final.
And elsewhere in your manuscript, you mention that Mario Raceway (I presume, your name for the ovular road around the quad of CSU’s campus) is 100 meters long—according to CSU administrative records, it’s only 87. I understand your want to have a round-sounding number here, but we have a responsibility to TRUTH.
My writing is like painting. If I paint a real scene but the strokes are stylistically blurry, nobody’s going to care. How beautiful. I love your style. Etc. Nobody views writing like this, but it’s real fucking art. I use non-fictitious events and impressions and metaphysicisms as inspiration, and then I create a literary experience; nothing more, nothing less.
Sure, Mr. Grabowski. But you have to understand I’m just doing my job here, and the fact of the matter is that it’s not 100 meters long. What about rephrasing to say “exceptionally long?”
The number 100 feels like more of a complete number, which people associate with forever, which they associate with long distances and endless light and such. All of those themes are essential to the essay, and they have to remain. Nobody gives a shit about the length of the Mario Raceway.
—and you create a list of questions… questions you might use to identify somebody, or to honor them. To honor her. It’s her birthday. You’re having a party and playing birthday trivia tomorrow:
- What condiment did she try for the first time in Fort Collins?
- Who was Time magazine’s person of the year when she was born?
- If she could choose any superpower, which one would she choose?
- What Fort-Collins-based Instagram page was she featured on?
- What does she make in the wee nighttime hours when she wants something sweet?
The banana-peanut-butter-chocolate-ice-cream. Remember? I told you.
River Grabowski is a queer writer and translator based in Fort Collins, Colorado. Currently, they are an MFA Candidate in creative nonfiction, work as a Composition Instructor, and serve as an Editorial Assistant at the Colorado Review. He was also a Fulbright Scholar to Argentina and has worked as a Spanish-English literary translator in Querétaro, México.