One Shot

It was 6th period. My one student was missing. No. That’s not entirely true. He wasn’t missing; I knew exactly where he was. It was the same place he usually is at the beginning of 6th period: sitting down the hallway by the vending machines, refusing to come the rest of the way to class, scribbling in his notebooks and most likely cussing out anyone trying to convince, cajole or coerce him into moving further. It’s SOP for this student: welcome to the world of Multiple Disabilities teaching. In the midst of dealing with this in the usual way (yes, we have a typical script to follow), I happened to glance down at my phone and note the little mail icon. Not giving it much thought, I swiped it open.

It opened directly into the message and without warning, there it was: the email I’ve been waiting on for six months. Or, rather, the polar opposite of the email I’ve been waiting on for six months. From the magazine I’d submitted my short story to. The short story I was sure had a good chance, to the magazine I was sure was the perfect niche for it, at just the right time because I had the WriteOnCon promotion to go with it. But still, there were those words: “Thank you…but…”

What surprised me, was not the email. Not the rejection. Honestly, after six months, while hope ever remains alive, reality insists on playing its trump card. It wasn’t unexpected. What surprised me was my response. There was barely any. I took the words in, read them all at once, almost like a stamp on my eyes: REJECTION! In bright red letters. Punched the button on the phone. Put it back in my pocket. Went on with my business.

Like they’d poured out their decision as a shot of whiskey and slid it in front of me. I hate whiskey, but there it sat in the glass, staring at me, and nothing for it. I slammed it back, fast, hard. It hit the back of my throat, burned a little and then it was over. The bitter aftertaste was there. I rolled it around on my tongue for the rest of the day, felt the slight buzz of discomfort. But for the most part, that one moment was it. I shook my head, pushed away from the bar and walked off. One shot. Done. Over with. Let it go and move on.

It wasn’t always like this. Rejection is a flavor all writers have to learn the taste of, and there is nothing good about it. But it’s a very big part of our lives. And it doesn’t get better with time, or repetition of consumption. It’s not a taste you are going to acquire. Maybe you can learn to tolerate it. Maybe you can learn to ignore it. Maybe, with enough time and repetition, your taste buds get desensitized or killed from it. It probably works differently for different writers. For me, I’m apparently learning to shoot it like bad alcohol.

In the beginning, I would nurse it. I can remember my first rejection letter. I think I was fifteen. And it broke my heart for days. Weeks. Maybe longer. Of course, looking back, it was completely justified. I should be honored they took the time to write me a rejection letter even. But I nursed that pain for a long time, tasting the acrid bitterness, letting the rejection numb my mind and writing senses. Disorient me, my goals, my passion. I sat on that stool, leaned on the bar, drooled into the peanuts and moaned to the bartender. Drunk on rejection. But what good does that do me? Where does it get me? I don’t want to be a drunk in a bar, in reality or in the metaphorical writing world. So, hand me my whiskey! I’ll take that one shot and move on! And one day, I’ll be lifting a celebratory glass of champagne instead!

~ S.D. Bullard

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~ by sdbullard on April 26, 2014.

2 Responses to “One Shot”

  1. A rejection is definitely something worth celebrating! It’s all part of the journey and you’ve hit a major rite of passage. 🙂

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