Tuesday, September 21, 2010

So Close, Yet So Far

You ever notice during the Olympics how the bronze medalist is the happiest person on the podium--with a loopy grin that says, "how the fuck did I get invited to this party"--while the silver medalist looks like she's chewing glass? That's because a third-place finish is a notch above Loser-ville, while #2 is a peg below Cheerios box. Bronze is lucky, silver an instant footnote.

I thought about this as yet another rejection letter popped up in my email today. Nine months ago I submitted an essay to the lit mag River Teeth. Nine months ago. I've gotten, like, six haircuts since then. Christmas came and went, not to mention Easter, the Fourth of July and Labor Day. Speaking of Labor Day, I could have conceived and birthed a human in the time it took River Teeth to read through my 20-page submission, apparently one syllable at a time.

Wanna hear their excuse? "Our apologies for hanging on to this for so long, Patty. It came close but just didn't make the cut this time. We hope you'll submit again."

Close. It was sweet of them to tell me so, in a personalized email no less--that's like electronic eye contact and a handshake. I should have been elated. I should have taken the glass half full, look on the bright side, you still have your health approach--hey, at least my piece hadn't been summarily tossed onto the scrap heap, and me along with it. At least someone (or maybe multiple someones) thought my work had a shred of merit.

Not good enough. That's what I took away instead. Who cares if I missed by the publishing equivalent of .00001 of a second. When it's winner takes all--you get a byline or you don't--I might as well have missed by a mile. I might as well have failed horribly, slipping on the ice and taking the entire Dutch speed skating team down with me, because in the end the result was the same. Not published. So why torture me with "almost"? I'd rather lose than not-win.

Excuse me while I go chew some glass.


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