So I went to see Rent with my friend J tonight. We sat on the terrace, which is the area with chairs and even little portable tables to eat your dinner on. To put it another way, it’s where the rich people sit. We sat there because J is a journalist and so gets press seating. He calls himself the “affluent poor,” because he sits in hundred dollar seats and hob-nobs with high profile artists and, as a reviewer, even has some power, but he what he actually makes in money would put him right around the poverty line. I, by virtue of my eternal schooling, guess I am also like that. I don’t get hundred dollar box seats, but I get a fair amount of “free” cultural events, and better health insurance that I could ever pay for.
I had never seen Rent. M, who works at my internship, hates it, because she feels it’s a bunch of whiny kids. I don’t really feel that way. I can see the play is flawed, written by someone who hadn’t entirely developed his craft yet, but it has a vitality, and I guess, though it might be melodramatic, that I feel I can sympathize with much of it. First of all, I get worrying about the rent, and I understand Roger’s desire to write one amazing song before he leaves this earth, and I empathize with living with a disease that will eventually kill you, and watching your friends die and the kind of abandon that can settle upon you… so I enjoyed it, despite its flaws.
It was also a good evening to put in perspective the email I received today, saying that I was turned away from a much hoped-for fiction workshop, based on my writing samples. The professor said, via his assistant, that although he enjoyed my stories, they were not quite up to caliber for a graduate level class. I don’t expect much these days in terms of wish fulfillment–I had been fully braced to hear that the class was full, or someone else had gotten the slot–but I was unprepared for this response as both stories that I sent have already been published in respectable lit journals. I’ve gotten pretty inured to contest rejections, and publication rejections, and scholarship rejections, but this was a shot to the heart. Essentially, the guy just said, “My class would be a little worse with you in it.” That’s the kind of shit that could make a girl hang up her hat and go home, if she had a hat rack…or a home.
But, one line from Rent that rang true for me, was when a guy with HIV complained that his T-cell count was down, and the leader at the support group said, “but how do you feel today?” Which means, how much the does bad news mean right now? For me, it means that in two weeks, I won’t get to sit in some class that I thought would be fun, but might not have been anyway, but you know what? I just spent a nice evening on the terrace at the Hollywood Bowl with an old friend who still puts up with me after fifteen-odd years, and I still have health insurance til the end of next week, and I feel pretty good. So fuck it, all I’m missing is more sense of abandon.