By now, we all know the drill. A fearless writer has submitted a sample to the piranha tank. First, the submission, and I’ll see you on the flip.
THEY SAID LOVE IS selfless. They said love is sacrifice. They said all that rubbish because they hadn’t been in love. They didn’t know that when he didn’t love you back, it felt like God created you and tossed you into an inferno—to burn and cease to exist the very moment you were born. Because you cared about him and along the way, he forgot to care about you in return. Maybe you were supposed to love him unconditionally without expecting anything of him. But in reality, it wasn’t the sappy, unrealistic feelings of seeing him smile that stuck with you. It was the doubt that maybe you weren’t enough—that maybe he didn’t think you were worth the love.
I looked at the closed window that overlooked the colorful leaves hanging from the tree outside. The leaves swayed so slowly, calmly. A stray leaf landed right on the puddle of rain on the ground. It floated, not giving into the power of the water yet. The leaf stared at me, its stem buried within the puddle. I watched for what felt like an eternity. Desperately, I hoped another leaf would tumble to keep the current one company. The wind would take this leaf to a faraway place soon, and how sad it would be for it to vanish from the Earth alone. After all, everyone needed a friend sometime.
Even a leaf.
I knew I sounded morbid, but I was confined here. The rules were clear: we weren’t allowed to open the windows. The facilitator, Teresa Castilla, said if I wanted to go outside, all I had to do was ask a rehab official. With a trusted authority, I could go anywhere. But the window rule was intact under all circumstances. Immediately, I’d thought this was a prison in disguise but the pretty receptionist with platinum blonde hair assured me people here weren’t terrible once I’d get to know them.
I’d arrived here at five in the evening two days earlier. The first thing I’d noticed was the medieval, timbered structure of the building. From the outside, the residence had seemed quite simplistic and bland, though I’d have to admit the timbered style carried an ornate energy. It was a two-story building and it was smack in the middle of a secluded neighborhood. There were several stores and other services two streets away, in case of emergencies.
Yo. It’s Gilstrap again. First off, I need to offer a bit of full-disclosure. This is not a genre I read, nor is it one whose rules and expectations I’m familiar with. From the first paragraph on, the tone is entirely too whiny for my taste. That is not a criticism of the writer or the writing–it is merely a confession that I may not be the best judge for a book of this genre.
With that bit out of the way, I find a lot to like in the craftsmanship of this piece. The voice is strong and the angst is clear. In a different setting–if I were not expected to offer critique–I would have nothing to say. I think the entire piece is of professional quality.
But let’s quibble anyway. The leaf thing goes on way, way too long. The paragraph resonates to me like one of those darlings we’re required to kill. It feels very . . . literary. And by that I mean that while it takes up valuable first-page real estate, it does not advance the story.
The phrase, “I knew I sounded morbid” was a bit of a moment-breaker. To “sound”, something must be heard, and I have the sense that this is all internal monologue. Perhaps, “I knew these thoughts were morbid . . .” would work better. I’m also not 100% sure that “morbid” is the word you want. Morose, maybe?
Finally, I’m not sure what a “secluded neighborhood” is. Secluded from what, especially given that there are stores and such nearby?
And that’s about all I’ve got. Overall, this is one of the most satisfying, well-done submissions that I’ve had the pleasure of critiquing. Well done.