Fall 2014

Tearful Women

Sob story

Sheila Heti

Amy Jean Porter, Ribbon, 2014.

The professor said he wanted to see me at the end of the hall. So I went to the end of the hall where he was waiting. Then he took my hand and led me away. I would have gone anywhere with him—he was so cute.

I didn’t ask where we were going, not wanting to bruise his masculinity. When we reached his office, he pushed the door open, then pushed me inside. We were alone in there together. I faced him, my lips upturned, letting him know that he could have whatever he desired. I knew I was taking a chance. Possibly he loved my sister Myrtle, not me. Then he said, I love Myrtle—the words I most feared.

I said I figured he loved Myrtle, but that he couldn’t blame me for trying. I was used to it. It has always been this way—men preferring Myrtle to me. The least you can do, I said, is tell me why men have always preferred Myrtle.

I could see him blushing. While blushing, he checked his Blackberry. Then he handed me my term paper (the real reason I was in his office), then he said, Oh, landing in Myrtle’s arms would be like landing in warm dough.

But I’m skinny! I said. Myrtle is nothing but a fat pig!

Any man in the midst of his life would prefer a whole pig to a bag of its bones—any day.

• • •

I pulled the brunette away from his door. He was in there with a student (the bony sister of Myrtle) and it wasn’t right for this girl to be spying. I said to her, while walking her down the hall, Come along. You are living the drama of the self-fulfilling prophecy. Why? You—who have such a great imagination—and yet you can’t even see the cliché stories of how this thing will come to an end (that he loves the student who is in his office already). What is going on with you? Can’t you devise any other possible life? Isn’t that what the imagination is for—to imagine lives that don’t only rise to the surface from the pain in one’s heart, or one’s history? This moment is new, and utterly new are all the players in it. This day is new, and no one person alone can decide how it will go… or where it will end up. No one alone can say where the day will march off to, in what direction or where. You think you have it all figured out, but you are just a puzzle piece, which fits in with the others. You can direct the future as much as anyone. You play a part in it, too. Why not conceive of other possibilities—engage in life like it’s something you’re making, rather than being swept away by all those feelings and thoughts from the past, which are already past. Come now, don’t cry. Don’t cry so pathetically. If you want to change your life, do! But do it vigorously, with imagination, not plodding obediently behind whatever sadness causes you to follow the path you most dread.

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