My junior year at what was then called William Paterson College. I was 21, tall, thin, idealistic, still naturally blonde, and I was going to change the world with WordPerfect and a dot-matrix printer.
Then I met Guy. Not any guy, a guy named Guy. Guy Moore: the ten inches taller, much blonder, Editor-in-Chief of the campus literary magazine, Essence. For four semesters I had known of Guy. There was no way for me not to know of Guy. I was an English Writing major. I had submitted pieces to Essence.
Still, our paths had never officially crossed. Then, one amber gold afternoon in late September, 1989 when I stumbled, late, into my first Creative Writing class. I had fifteen freshly minted copies of my very first short story stuffed under my arm and I was ready to change the world with my words. Raymond Carver had better watch out. Cristina Miller was hot on his heels.
Whereas the college’s Critical Writing classes required you to be majoring in English to enroll, the Creative Writing classes were open to everyone and qualified as a general education elective. The classes’ only requirement was to submit a few paragraphs or a poem for open critique every week. It was almost a guaranteed A. As such it invited as many future elementary school teachers as serious would-be writers.
That afternoon, I slunk into class and took a seat at the nearest desk of ten or so arranged in a rough circle. The dwindling afternoon sunlight reflected off dusty classroom windows. I glanced at my watch and then around the circle at my fellow students. Everyone had a sheaf of papers stacked neatly in front of them, meaning readers had already been picked for that class. I was too late to have my version of A Small, Good Thing critiqued.
Two desks away, a raven-haired sorority cheerleader was attempting to be Sylvia Plath. A golden-haired Alpha Beta Chi, sitting at the desk between us, glared scornfully and shoved a sheaf of poems at me. I put my precious masterpiece away and skimmed the first poem, matching the words on the page to Raven Plath’s poetry recital. Raven Plath was talking about black roses and crows coming to roost on shriveled black apples. When she finished a few moments later, Scornful Sorority Sister clapped loudly and started gushing praise for Raven Plath’s “bravery” and “dark metaphors”. Around the circle, several other Alpha Beta Chi’s chimed in with similar effusive praise.
I could feel the actual Sylvia Plath turning in her grave.
Unable to think of anything constructive to say and not wanting to risk the wrath of an entire sorority of future elementary school teachers, I reached into my backpack for my dogeared copy of the Norton Anthology of American Literature, planning to lose myself in Raymond Carver until the next student took the stage.
I was about two words into Cathedral when the cacophony of sorority support was abruptly ended by a reverberating shout of “That doesn’t work!”
It was followed by a loud thud bouncing off the classroom walls.
I looked up seeking the origin my reading disruption and straight into the ice blue eyes of the legendary Guy Moore, sitting directly across from me in the circle of desks.
The source of the loud thud had been Guy’s equally legendary brown fedora, which he had dropped on the desk in front of him.
Guy’s eyes were blazing at the circle of Alpha Beta Chi’s.
The circle Alpha Beta Chi’s eyes were blazing at Guy. At least I think they were. I couldn’t exactly tell under all the mascara each Alpha Beta Chi was wearing.
I glanced around for someone to break the tension and saw the class professor trying to slip out the door behind me.
I looked down at the opening line of Cathedral: This blind man, an old friend of my wife’s, he was on his way to spend the night.
I looked across from me back into Guy’s blazing ice blue eyes and shivered.
I looked up and around at the ring of Alpha Beta Chi’s surrounding us and shivered again as I heard the scrape of perfectly manicured nails against multiple desks.
I sighed, put away Carver, and pulled out a pen. I quickly read Raven Plath’s poem, made a few constructive notes, and cleared my throat.
“Guy, I’m going to rescue you,” I said, loud enough for the Alpha Beta Chi’s to take note.
Guy looked across the circle at me, a slight wave of relief in his voice, “Yes, please do.”
My hopes of becoming the next Raymond Carver faded; an editor was born.