I didn’t take notice of the messages in my inbox at first. Nature called like clockwork at 6am, and I shuffled towards the bathroom in my pink striped pajamas. I’d left my laptop on by accident sometime between CSI Miami and Law and Order. Korea loves back to back cop shows. For me it is the perfect cure for insomnia, and it drowns out the raucous old men outside the 7/11 underneath my window as they drink makeoli into the wee hours of the morning.. I bleared my way through my morning breakfast of peanut butter and honey toast and Facebook updates, but it wasn’t the coffee that jolted me awake.
It was the subject line for the Afrikaans poetry competition I had entered many moons ago, and a deathly calm cleared my vision as I clicked on it.
“Dear Mister van Wynegaard (they got my gender wrong, that hurt the most) we regret to inform you…” etc etc. It was short and to the point, I didn’t make the cut, and was encouraged to try again next time. I closed the email, read and deleted the generic email from the bank, and finished my rather awful instant coffee with skim milk. I planned the day’s lessons in my head and considered whether I should wear a sweater to work that day, because autumn was finally breezing through the window and I wanted to take advantage of every last cool swoop of air.
It was definitely the weather. I sang to myself as I walked to the subway, the cold air touched my cheeks and tickled my nose, I felt lightly disappointed but not morbidly depressed, and I was happy that it had taken so long for them to get back to me, at least it meant they had read my work (well, except the ones about me being a woman without a voice in Africa, hence the “mister”.)
I got to school, it was a Wednesday. Wednesdays are generally good days, I only have three classes, and they are the cute third graders who like to give me high fives and pretend they are shooting at me while I teach. (I pretend to die while I teach, nothing ever gets done this way, but it keeps their attention at the front of the class.) I confiscated toys and received half chewed candy and picked up endless amounts of shreggi (trash) off the floor from various art projects, and I was content and happy, and the rejection only made me smile sadly at myself in the mirror during brief break times.
I had waited so many months, refreshed my inbox a million times a day, stalked other contestants on the forums, and then, that line…”We regret to inform you…” Had it been a Tuesday, or worse, a Friday (I have six periods of sixth graders on both days), or had it still been a full blown Korean summers day, I may have cried, or thrown something, or beaten myself up about it. But that day it wasn’t the end of the world, and I had an ABC poem in iambic pentameter to teach with my amateur drumming, and many more pictures to make for the following lessons.
I was truly okay, and I give credit to that day.