i am a writer.

when rob, a big white guy who lived across the hall from me in bellarmine broke up with his girlfriend, he sent me the AIM conversation she used to break up with him. apparently, she told him she had met someone else, and that they had been going out for a while. at this point in time, rob and i were freshmen, and his girlfriend was still a senior in high school. even though she was only about two hours away in orkas island, the long-distance relationship didn't take. it was over.

i read through the conversation, as he, for some strange reason, wanted me to. all i remember is thinking about his poor writing skills. one of the lines read, "i so confused." it saddened me because it wasn't an isolated incident. his entire side of the conversation was riddled (can this verb only be used with the noun, "bullets?" whatever--even though this probably defeats the whole point of this entry) with grammatical errors, misspellings, and awful punctuation.

needless to say, it felt strange. i couldn't really feel sympathy for him. while everyone else (melinda, steve, anthony, jenn, jason) was telling him how sorry they were that it didn't work out between him and his girlfriend, i couldn't get past his poor writing skills. it boggled me that anyone who wrote that terribly could be accepted to seattle university. and, for those of you who have the same thought i had at the time, that possibly his writing was rushed, and that he was in such a horrible emotional state that his fingers couldn't gracefully connect with the keyboard, forget it. i gained a reputation for being "the writer" on our floor, and just about everyone came to me, expecting me to review and/or edit their papers. rob was often one of them.

before i get carried away, i just want to be honest. i'm not "the writer" few purport me to be. (in fact, i just looked up the word "purport" to make sure i was using it correctly.) i have no idea how i got accepted to seattle university. my second batch of SAT scores was a whopping 1040, and i had no extracurriculars to back me up. once, during a poetry workshop, when karyna used the word "dog-eared" in one of her poems, i remarked, "oh, i never really thought about how books actually look like dog ears," and i held up a book tent-style in front of me. another time, in british literature 2, i read aloud the word "sew" but pronounced it "sue," not just once, but many, many times. and, as a freshman in english 120, i asked, rather naively why the king didn't just tell telemachus where he could find odysseus, since he clearly knew where he was. puzzled, father leigh looked at me, and answered simply, "because then there would be no story."

my point is, i'm not perfect. that's obvious enough. but what i learned as a writing consultant at seattle university, what i learned as an americorps volunteer, and what i learned as a one-week teacher at an inner-city school, is that some people--no, actually a lot of people, can't even spell the word perfect if you asked them to.

i guess it should've already been clear to me. but, having attended st. ignatius elementary, where donald mundy was the only student who still stuttered when reading aloud even by the sixth grade, i just assumed everyone was caught up. there might be a donald here and there, but the thought that thousands of illiterate kids were struggling everywhere must've escaped me.

when i was a sophomore in high school, i read the bell jar while my classmates at jesuit were making dick and fart jokes, or else orchestrating a mass pencil-dropping routine at precisely 10:15 a.m. i didn't really get the bell jar when i read it, but i knew that i'd rather have my head in a book than participate in whatever pointless act my classmates were up to. i loved reading about people with emotional disorders, or people who had breakdowns. i couldn't understand all the white, smiling faces around me.

i so confused.


ms.meggie said...

it's ok; you talk pretty one day.

Toby Shuster said...

fr leigh still taunts me, too.