Back in 2007, a friend of mine dragged me to see a play at a converted school half a block away from my East Village apartment. The play was called Matt & Ben, and was about Damon and Affleck dealing with the aftermath of a script (Good Will Hunting) falling from the sky and into their laps. It was hilarious, which isn’t terribly surprising, because it was co-written by Mindy Kaling, who also played Ben (I think. I don’t really remember which one she was.) She was a fairly recent Dartmouth grad at the time, and not at all famous. This, I suppose, is the one time in my life I caught someone before they made it big.
Or perhaps the first time of two. Recently, I attended the Goldsmith University Writing Program’s graduation reading, and heard a young writer named EJ Harris read from her short story entitled “Bitch Blood.” It was just perfect: polished, anxiety-provoking (in a good way), eerie, plausible, yet exciting. Below, an excerpt; you can read the whole thing here.
Now I am anticipating the day in which Harris reads to large crowds at Daunt Books and I awkwardly shuffle up after the event and say, “Hey, remember me? I’m that American friend of LH’s who was at the Goldsmith’s thing and I drunkenly told you your story was, like, uh-may-zing.” And she’ll smile and nod and pretend to remember, but won’t.
(Side note: my friend LH organized the event and read there, but because I know her already and have always been sure she’s going to get famous, I didn’t put her on my list of revelations.)
You’re not supposed to swerve a car to avoid small animals in the road. Swerving, Emily’s driving instructor had told her, is very dangerous, and can cause accidents.
“If you can, slow to a stop,” he said.
“And if you can’t?” Emily asked.
“Well, then you just have to hit it.”
“If you kill a small animal it’s, you know, sad.”
“But if you kill a small human it’s, you know, illegal?”
Her driving instructor used to lean across to the steering wheel and correct her positioning on the road without ever touching her. They shared a similar sense of humour, and Emily had looked forward to the hour they spent together each week. When she passed her test, Emily had texted to thank him, and had been unable to think of any feasible reason to stay in touch.
When Emily hit the dog, then, she told herself that she had done nothing wrong, that she should not feel guilty. She was wearing sensible footwear, and she had not been drinking. She just didn’t see the dog until it was too late. It was dark, and the animal came out of nowhere.
After the bump, Emily pulled the car over and sat heavily for a moment. The dark huddle of the dog on the road multiplied in her mirrors. It is true that she considered restarting the car and driving away; that the street was residential and anonymity impossible featured high on the list of reasons she did not.
In moments, two shadowy figures raced through the darkness towards her. She opened the door, shaking, and heard a man’s voice swear loudly.
“I’m so sorry,” said Emily, hurrying over.
“Fuck,” said the man, crouched over the dog which, Emily realised with horror, was alive, and whimpering pathetically.