The Student Reading
by Paul Florez
Back in July, I wrote at length about my hopes and fears for the first student reading I’d be hosting at The New School. The story was published with Slice magazine, and I ended it on a relatively positive note, saying we’ll have to wait till September to see how it goes. Well September happened and my followup essay never saw the light of day (my Slice column was transformed into a monthly Q&A). So here, at long last, is my follow up. I hope you’re ready for a tale of gut-wrenching humiliation, because spoiler warning, that’s exactly what happened.
First, a little backstory about the morning of the student reading. I woke up late. The night before I had told Siri to set an alarm for 9am because Fresh Direct was coming at that hour (for those of you who don’t know Fresh Direct is a grocery delivery service). Maybe Siri was riding the crimson wave or she was pissy that I dropped her on the pavement the night before, but the alarm never went off and I awoke at 10:30am to my two feisty Pomeranians, Victorius and Apollo, incessantly barking at the door.
Now, dear reader, we’re about to get a little intimate. I sleep in the buff. Commando. Full nude. Whatever. I hope this visual doesn’t make you want to vomit (it shouldn’t, because A. you don’t know what I look like and B. I work out). So when I bolted out of bed, disoriented and butt naked, my first instinct was to wrap a soggy towel over my waist and carry my dogs as I opened the door.
The Fresh Direct delivery guy came in jamming to his headphones.
“I’m in a towel,” I volunteered.
He didn’t react to my words, and just kept his head down.
Both my dogs started wiggling, trying so desperately to be freed of my maternal grip, and kicked the towel off me.
“There goes my towel,” I shouted.
Panicked, I placed Apollo down on the floor and used Victorius to cover my family jewels. The delivery guy either didn’t notice or didn’t care, and just handed me a pen to sign for the delivery.
“As you can see, I don’t have a free hand.”
Victorius then growled at the delivery guy and he retracted the pen, exiting my apartment as if nothing happened.
I don’t know how I’d react to a grown man in his 30s greeting me with morning breath and a fluffy Pomeranian covering his junk, but I imagine I’d too ignore the situation as it unfolded and just judgmentally tweet about it later.
So there’s the morning. I’ll spare you the saga about the delayed subway, the homeless man who defecated right next to me, and my misplaced wallet.
When I got into the office, I found out two students had to cancel on the reading (side note: each student reading has ten readers and they each read for five minutes).
I texted my best friend Kyle to see if she could read, but she was in the middle of a photo shoot and had no time to prepare an excerpt. Worse, she didn’t know if she could make it to the reading since the photographer was delayed.
I bowed my head in defeat. The universe had won. What was I going to do for ten minutes of free time during the event? I got this job because I had over eight years of experience in publishing and knew how to put together a simple reading.
“Organizing a reading will be a breeze,” I had told my boss during the interview.
Just as I was about to give up hope, a first year student walked into the office.
“Paul,” she said with a big smile. “You never answered me about my student reading inquiry.”
“What?” I asked.
“I emailed you, wanting to volunteer for tonight’s reading.”
“I never got it,” I said, pulling up my email right before her. “See! No e-mail from you.”
“Oh no,” she pouted. “I sent it to the wrong email.”
“Well you’re in luck,” I said. “We just had a cancellation.”
“Really,” she said. “I have a piece but it’s longer than five minutes.”
I’m not a religious man, but I’d compare this moment to the alcoholic who bore witness to Jesus turning water into wine. A miracle was unfolding before my very eyes and I was going to milk it.
“The longer the better,” I smiled.
When the reading kicked off, everything went off without a hitch. Well, that’s not true. The pizza was late, the bartender disappeared for a few minutes, and there was a weird old man who refused to leave the room once the event got started. But as I took the podium I felt all my hard work had paid off. And the best part was that once it was over, I came back home only to discover I’d forgotten to put my Fresh Direct away and my Pomeranians had peed all over it