It Came And Saw You Dreaming
The parable of the wise and foolish virgins by Wilhelm Von Schadow, Oil on Canvas
IN one of Joy William’s short stories called, “The Lover,” a girl listens in to a radio host who has an ambiguous, poetic answer for all questions. It's as if he knows the truth of all things without fully revealing it. Towards the end of the story, the girl tells the host, “I want to know my hour." The host replies, “Your hour came, dear, […] It went when you were sleeping. It came and saw you dreaming and it went back to where it was.” It's so haunting, this idea of a missed chance, that I still think about this story from time to time. It reminds me very much of the parable of the ten virgins from scripture.
Now if you don’t recall the parable, it goes like this: Ten virgins were to bring the bridegroom and his bride home. But the bridegroom was late, so they all fell asleep. When they awoke, only half of the virgins had enough oil for the bridegroom’s arrival. They begged the other half to share, but the wise virgins sent the foolish ones away to the market because they only had enough for themselves. While they were away buying more oil, the bridegroom came. When the foolish virgins arrived sometime after, they were not let in, as the bridegroom no longer recognized them.
Is it sheer bestial impulse? Is it driven by validation? Or some greater ambition like “grit”?
When I am writing and when I am reading, I feel that I am living out my vocation. I’ve heard others say that writing is akin to living. They say that it is so much part of a routine and part of the psyche that the whole day is off when they don’t write. For me, I have never had that same kind of instinct for creation. Instead, stories and ideas float around my mind. Lines of dialogue and other works seem to mesh together so that when I sit down to write, I have more material to work with. What might be parts of revision and drafting seem to take place ahead of time. I could, I imagine, go through the rest of my life without putting the pen to paper, though I think it would feel very much unfulfilled. All the same, having completed my thesis, having edited it over, and having sent parts out, I do not have the same inclination to write, at least not my subject of choosing.
I am waiting—for a publication mostly, for the validation, and yes, for a job that fits a bit better with my degree. But I wonder if it is for the waiting that I have ceased writing or for the lack of interest. Unlike an act of charity, an act of art is completed to be viewed. When it goes unviewed, then what is the inclination to produce more? In a burst of envy, I've researched other young authors writing similar stories who got their break on a contest or were pulled out of the mire of unsolicited submissions and think—I received no advice, only the templated response—and why? A large leap from professors doting over your writing. What drives creation then? Is it sheer bestial impulse? Is it driven by validation? Or some greater ambition like “grit”?
Nor could they tell us if we would end up in the same place, having different feet and different strides.
In a fiction seminar, at my grad school, the authors opened up to questions. I waited as others asked away, teased the idea of asking a question also. The two professors went back and forth answering the questions, witty and knowledgeable. The raising of the hands slowed, and when the last call for questions was presented, out of a half-joke and fearfulness, I raised my hand.
“When will my time come?” I asked.
The answer surprised me—
One of the professors said, “Now is your time. This is it.”
She related a story about an author who got her book made into a movie. The author went to the red carpet event for the movie. She was surrounded by famous actors and actresses. She chatted with them and took pictures with them. People asked her about her work, her motivations, her inspirations, and she recounted them all. She stayed until she was the only person left and there was no one left to talk to. She took a picture of herself with the empty parking lot.
“This is it,” she wrote. “Congratulations to me.”
She was back in reality—her reality where there were no actors and actresses and people interested in asking her questions. There was and there wasn’t. There was because it did actually happen, but there wasn’t, because it was not something to persist into her daily life. All that was left was to return to her desk, that solitude of a writer, and write.
I was asking meant the impossible—when will that time come for the teaching job or that first publication or the first agent—something unknowable to the anyone, much less a stranger. After all, the professors could have related the direction to walk, but they could not walk for us, nor could they tell us if we would end up in the same place, having different feet and different strides. But it did not occur to me at that time that it wasn’t so much in the success but in the present day of the studying and writing. The culmination of it all is what we need to be prepared for, with extra oil and opened eyes.
About the Author:
I'm a short fiction writer currently working on publishing all the short fiction from grad school that I still very much like. In addition to reading and writing, I love playing games, cooking with my wife, and hanging out with our two cats—D'mitri and Ophelia. If you got something out of my article, or if you just flat-out disagree with it, feel free to leave me a comment below.