Apparently, my college nemesis, Lawrencius, received news of my book, Luck Favors the Prepared. He sent me a letter.
The envelope was brown and coarse, probably a handmade paper with what looked like pine needles and feces pressed into the pulp. It was bound with a wax stamp displaying a frilly “L” and reeked of patchouli and college.
I opened the letter, in spite of the small bulge in the corner. The small bulge turned out to be glitter which exploded everywhere, covering everything. Myself, my living room, everything was instantly fabulous and would remain fabulous for weeks.
“Haha!” the letter read. “How do you like the glitter? Jerk!”
His name wasn’t really Lawrencius (pron. lah-ren-suss). It was Seth, or David or Steve, but when we were classmates he demanded we refer to him by this pompous, made-up name. He signed all his papers, copies distributed for peer critique, with a similarly frilly ‘L.’
Lawrencius and I were instantly not friends.
Because we attended several of the same classes with an almost identical pool of students (common for a group who are all orbiting the same major), our mutual distaste bloomed as a spectacle for our small community.
Each writing assignment he submitted for review and class discussion, in addition to his ornate colophon, was introduced with the brassy fanfare of an indulgent preamble. He would actually stand at the front of the class to bloviate elaborately on his state of mind from whence his opus was composed. He would omit no context of where it was written, if its first traces were scrawled, post coital, on a bedside tablet or in a cafe filled with hot jazz and cold-eyed women. To my horror, these breathless prefaces were allowed to continue uninterrupted by our professors.
It is worth noting Lawrencius was a tremendous ass-kisser. His fawning attentions to our bevy of professors—whose egos purred at his persistent adoration—allowed that they were more than happy to yield their podium to his florid orations.
An actual quote from a particularly lengthy preface: “I was reeling in an ethereal plane of post-beat slam and pre-feminist utopian essays when I began to mold this piece…”
He went on and on like that (prompted by a small clutch of note cards) until, at long last, I’d had my fill.
“Why don’t you shut up?” I said.
Lawrencius, holding a grapefruit as a placeholder for poor Yorick’s skull, did just that. The grapefruit was a prop in his theatrical introduction to a sonnet, his most recent masterpiece, distributed for critique. It was only a brief pause but it was delicious. The silence, not the grapefruit.
“What did you say?”
“I said,” I said. “Shut up! You pompous blowhard.”
My point, which I thought was perfectly obvious and redundant to clarify, was that authors aren’t allowed a preface. They may include a preface to a written work, but for the author’s place in a world that’s short on time and likely doesn’t care about them, there are no such allowances. Just because we were a captive audience did not grant Lawrencius license to perform his never ending ballet of vanities.
It was a point that was not well received.
One of my classmates offered, “Why don’t you shut up?!”
“Yeah,” offered another. “You...pompous blowhard.”
I’d presumed as much, knowing Lawrencius was largely regarded a sort of defacto braintrust for our incestious little English department. Maybe he was a bouffant jackass but for all his wild claims to genius, his windy braggadocio, came a self-fulfilling foundation to which my classmates eagerly clung.
Lawrencius, emboldened by the chorus of supporters, again hefted poor Yorick the grapefruit to resume his monologue.
What did I learn from this—my sobering confrontation with Lawrencius? Humility? Worthlessness? All of that, yes, and much more.
It was a bitter pill.
I was impressed then, as I am now, how the earnest work of dedication and vulnerability is so easily trounced by the grand claims of an inferiority complex run amok.
For the skeptics out there, those who would turn their nose up at such a bitter pill, need only remember we are in the midst of Donald Trump’s presidency. And Donald Trump is arguably killing it among great swaths of our very own countrymen. These are grown men and women who feel a champion in Donald Trump. I’ll say that again, out of context, because it’s worth repeating.
In this grim landscape I’ve described, where is one to find purchase in the drilling headwinds of embarrassments and defeats and humility and on and on and on? How does one secure agency? The wherewithal to continue?
I love weddings. One thing I love about weddings, (besides the whole wedding part), is that dance floor. Of course, much depends on the DJ, but likely, by the end of the night, I’ll be pouring sweat and my feet, which are not used to dress shoes, much less being forced to an evening of prolonged, violent exercise in dress shoes, will have rendered to throbbing bags of hamburger.
Whoever it was made the grave error of inviting me to their wedding, they and their whole family and their extended family and some coworkers and college buddies will look on breathlessly, “My god!” I can hear them gasp. “Is that poor white boy suffering a seizure?”
Here’s my secret:
1. Give in to the likelihood that everything you do is stupid, ridiculous, temporary and probably offensive. Embrace everything opposite of dignity. Give in to the rhythm. You can feel that beat in your ass. Don’t deny it.
2. Take a page out of Donald Trump’s playbook, “You’ll never be the punchline if you always, completely embrace the joke.” Okay, Donald Trump didn’t say that verbatim, but you know it has to be a Donald mantra. Otherwise he would have blown his brains out long ago.
Lawrencius’s glittery letter continued:
‘I heard about your so called ‘book.’ I heard you’re self publishing? I hear you’re having to do all your own marketing which is just as well since, if you can’t be a real author, then you might as well peddle trinkets. That’s so pathetic. In a sad way. Like a desperate cry for attention...’ His letter goes on and on like this. It’s pithy barbs lodged in my brain.
You can hear them in there still, rattling around in my head.
A Google search for Lawrencius and his many works pulled up scant results. There’s a lot of entries in vanity presses, whose contributors all paid someone $50 to consider and edit their submission in return for a free copy of the publication (distributed only to those who foolishly paid $50 for a shoddy lit rag).
Google was also kind enough, to reveal Lawrencius’s address, which I followed to an apartment complex way out in the suburbs. I waited there for him, for a long time, and when he finally came out, I knew it was him since he still wore the same fedora with that stupid feather lodged in the brim.
He beeped the alarm to a small car parked just behind me. He got in and rolled down the window. I walked up to the car and said “Hey Steve!” and emptied a three pound bag of glitter into the open window. In his panic, cursing and flailing arms, my fabulous deposit was thoroughly distributed throughout the interior of the car, permanently embedding itself in the upholstery. Coughing and blinded, he sped off, windows billowing sparkling clouds like glittering streamers.
Where was he headed? I can’t say.
But I do know, when he gets there, he will show up looking absolutely fabulous.