I have a physical memory when it comes to rejection. Reading a writer friend’s post on her own recent rejection sent my memory soaring back to the lobby of the Loew’s Village VII movie theater, the one with the narrow staircases between floors, and of standing in a distinct spot near the water fountain on one of the upper floors, a dark, stilled popcorn machine at my back. It was my birthday; I had just seen the so-called gay cowboy movie; I had just been rejected by an agent I had been hoping on unhealthily for months. I don’t recall who the agent was now, to be honest. I am sitting here writing this post and I cannot for the life of me recall the name of the movie. I don’t know what the agent’s letter said, if it was a letter or an email, if it was nice or bland, if I agreed or didn’t agree with her critique. But I do remember the silver water fountain, its grimy nozzle and dirty basin, the hush of sound from the floors below, the buttery smell in the air, the warm sense of E’s arms around me as I tried not to cry, the warmer sense of how tightly he held me when I did cry. I remember the scarf around my neck. I remember my shoes.
I have other memories like this. My most memorable rejections are frozen in time in certain rooms all across the city. Even on street corners; I have one of those.
The first of these was back when I was still a grad student. I was in a garish cubicle with low metal walls when I was rejected by an agent for the very first time. It came via email. It started off so nice it set my heart soaring (my heart is such a big baby) and then—splat—it fell when I got to the end. I remember the glare of my computer screen. I remember the keyboard sounds across the cubicle divider. I remember the girl chattering on the phone on the other side about what flowers she wanted at her wedding. I remember the wheeled chair I sat in, how it creaked whenever I moved, the uncomfortable shape of the hard round mouse in my hand. I read that email and I did what any immature writer would do before she realized that this—rejection—would be the reoccurring theme of her life, sort of like the sing-along chorus. I made a huge deal of it. I told my boss I was sick, and I left the office early. I remember the fluorescent lights in the hallway as I headed for the elevator. I remember the uncomfortable skirt I was wearing; again I remember my shoes.
So I wonder what will be imprinted on my brain when The Happy Moment happens. I should dress for the occasion. I should redecorate my walls with promising colors so when I think back on it I will have a beautiful memory to revisit, no fluorescent lights, no creaky chairs, no greasy popcorn. I should at least get some better shoes.