October 3rd, 2007 - Rion Amilcar Scott
On this day—not October 3, 2007—I am revising a story I was writing on that October date ten years ago. How does one revise a story for ten years? If you were to tell me in 2007 that I would still be working on this story with a title ripped from a Biggie Smalls song—“Party & Bullshit”—I’d perhaps laugh darkly, bitterly. My worst fears confirmed. It would become obvious to me: all that I was learning in graduate school, all that I was writing, had come to absolutely nothing. The story concerns a young man who is dissatisfied with everything around him. He attends a party at a nightclub, hoping that helps him make sense of his life. He has a disastrous work day and contemplates the numerous ways his job is destroying his soul. He contemplates a relationship that he is unsure of. October 3, 2007 was a Sunday. Sundays, these days, fill me with dread. They mean that for the next several days I will strap myself every morning into a rolling glass and metal cage to take my body to a place my heart and mind refuse to go. I am scattered to the wind, displaced. Pieces of me here and there. Rarely do I find myself united. I felt no such dread on October 3, 2007. I had no job to rip me apart the next day, just writing classes. I was in my parents’ basement where I lived, a sanctuary I didn’t know was a sanctuary, and that story kept coming. I recalled that job I had years before that drained me and I turned it into fiction, satirizing my past despair. Never again would I feel so ripped apart by a job, I thought. It was worth a laugh on the page, just as the notion of never again being destroyed by a job is worth a laugh now. Like the character, I contemplated my relationship, surely time would make coupling make sense. There was nothing I had to do to make things make sense, no actions I had to take; all I had to do was live and trust time. I realize now that that whole time—October 3, 2007 and all its surrounding days—were a kind of Sunday. The world rushed in eventually, dreadful and dark. In roughly a year and a month, my grandmother would be gone—a sanctuary lost. People, I learned, want what they want from you and time puts nothing in order. Sundays and every other day became dreadful again, but especially Sundays. I watched pieces of me scatter and buzz about like confused gnats. I returned to “Party & Bullshit” frequently, changing a sentence here, deciding it’s brilliant and then condemning it as a hack work, sending it out for publication and collecting rejection after rejection. The manuscript that the story was initially a part of, I watched it become a bloated mess and one day it spontaneously combusted, metaphorically, of course. I salvaged “Party & Bullshit” for some reason, perhaps to hold on to that October 3, 2007 feeling. That time, like all times, is gone though. I look at the sentences now and try as I revise to honor the twenty-seven year old who wrote them. Many of the things that mattered to him, don’t matter to me now and so many things should have mattered to him. It’s not a story I would write today, but one I would revise, forever if I have to from Sunday to Sunday, with the faith that I can recast ten years of memories into a story I can live with.
Rion Amilcar Scott’s short story collection, Insurrections (University Press of Kentucky, 2016) was awarded the 2017 PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction. Presently, he teaches English at Bowie State University.
Rion urges you to check out National Bail Out. Organizations involved in the National Bail Out are working to end money bail and in the meantime get as many people out of cages and back to their families as we can. Visit nomoremoneybail.org.