Fiction

This weekend is culmination of the 31st annual Miami Book Fair International, where an exciting and diverse group of authors converge to give talks and ultimately push their books on eager and willing readers. But any expert Book Fair-goer will tell you that meeting Anne Rice or Cornell West is not the real draw. No sir. The true reason to attend this event is to be at the intersection of the world’s largest collection of people with the most annoying behavioral quirks.

Photo courtesy of MDC.
Look at all of the annoying people.

Below I’ve assembled a checklist to help you look out for these offenders as you walk along the myriad tents on S.E. 2nd Avenue. Once you have crossed paths with all of these people, bring your completed worksheet to my booth, The Lazy Would-Be Authors Guild, located between the portable toilet and the New York Times’ tent for a prize.*

__  A misunderstood teenager who believes they are a vampire/zombie hybrid.

__  A woman who insists on retouching her makeup in the middle of pedestrian traffic, right before meeting the author.

__  A man who is constantly fiddling with his black-rimmed designer glasses because he secretly hates them, but has to wear them to seem relevant.

__  Someone who is violently chewing their gum, minimum five chews per second.

__  A heterosexual couple that consists of one overly affectionate male. At least one hand has to be on his female companion at all times in order to qualify.

__  Someone who turns to their neighbor and loudly whispers, “This is a great talk!”

__  A person asking an author to sign a book written by another author.

__  A man who brought books to the Book Fair to read during the sessions, you know, in case it’s boring.

__  A woman who felt the need to dramatically stop what she was doing to sketch an inanimate object.

__  Someone who uses the word ‘astral’ within 30 seconds of introducing themselves to you in the bathroom.

__  A man who presents an elaborate conspiracy theory concerning genetics and/or the Illuminati during a Q & A session.

__  A woman who is forcing her children to lug around 23 canvas bags filled with promotional giveaways.

__  A struggling writer who hasn’t seen the sun in 81 days.

__  A man with an ironic haircut.

__  Someone who laughs really, really loudly before the punchline.

__  A woman who blogs because she doesn’t have the patience or attention span to write a book.  

*Prize is subject to change. Location is subject to change. Additional behaviors can be added to the list at any time. Not valid in the state of Florida or any other state or country of the world.

Confessions of a bully

It’s true. I was a bully. I was a silent bully. I sat quietly, while boys pounded sissies and fat girls got called names. And I never had the courage to tell a teacher, a bus driver or to jump in and stop the bully myself. I just sat there. And for that, I’m forever sorry.

In an effort to right the wrongs, I’d like to publicly apologize to three people:

Mrs. Sawyer

Mrs. Sawyer was my math teacher. She was blonde and southern and excessively polite. She didn’t speak a lick of Spanish, which is why kids would yell, “Puta loca!” and she’d just reply with a smile. One day, a student taped down the light switch and we all yelled and threw our books in the dark.

Dear Mrs. Sawyer,

You may not remember me, but I’m sure you remember your short time at Kinloch Park Middle School. I sat in your seventh grade math class and laughed when kids acted out. I never did my homework. And I never paid attention in class. Although I never screamed obscenities, I encouraged others to do so. When you left the school in the middle of the year, I perpetuated the rumor that you had a nervous breakdown. Mrs. Sawyer, I’m sorry that our class was so horrible and I’m really sorry for not being the voice of opposition during our class revolts. I can only imagine you went home and cried after each one of those episodes. I’m sure we were part of the reason you left the school. If we made you feel like a failure rest assured that it was us who failed you. You probably don’t even think about that class anymore, but, Mrs. Sawyer, know this, I think of you every time I look at a budget. I become filled with regret, wishing I had paid attention in your class.

Jose Suarez

Jose Suarez was smallest boy in school. I met him in elementary school. The last time I saw him was my sophomore year of high school before I transferred. I’m not sure when it started or why, but we all called him ‘Droopy.’ The name caught on like wild fire and followed him throughout his life. He kept to himself. Never bothered anyone. But everyone bothered him.

Dear Jose,

You may not remember me, because I never spoke to you. I was so worried about being cool and getting elected to student council that I never dared to speak to you. The irony is that you were the most popular boy in school. Everyone knew you by that horrible name you hated to be called and by your real name. It’s been 18 years since last seeing you and I still remember both names. So, you see, there is something incredibly special about you. I’m sorry your adolescence was marred by people picking on you. It’s just not fair. I still remember the day you pulled a stapler on the entire class and screamed at everyone to stop calling you that name. But, we didn’t listen. I saw you cry on multiple occasions, but I never stopped to put my arm around your shoulder. Now the tables are turned, as my eyes fill with tears when I think about the horrible things that may have crossed your mind during those dark times. I’m sorry for not being a good person. And, I’m really sorry for not trying to win your friendship. You would’ve taught me so much.

Richard

Richard and I took the same bus every morning and afternoon from middle school through high school. He was a year older with gorgeous blonde hair and big puffy lips that became bright red easily. Although handsome, he wasn’t one that the girls would fall for, as his limp wrist and high-pitched voice singled him out as a sissy. I don’t remember his last name, but I do remember witnessing the beating he took.

Dear Richard,

You may not remember me, but you were the first homosexual I met. You were fierce, fabulous and out in high school. You didn’t care what people thought about you. You surrounded yourself with girls and even made friends with some of the boys. Your humor bridged the sexual orientation gap and everyone felt comfortable around you. Except for me. I was going through my own struggle. I was desperately trying to prove that I wasn’t gay and any association with you would further sink me into a hole. Stupid move, I realize now, as you could’ve helped me stand up to those kids. I had witnessed you defend a heavy girl from a name-calling attack, among other kids you protected from bullies. I knew why you were so quick to stand up for people. I was there the day you got beat up by that kid that called you the f-word. That delinquent punched you so hard in the jaw the physics made your face turn to my direction, where our eyes met. You were bigger, taller and older than that bully, but somehow you were laying in fetal position on a green bus seat, bleeding and defeated. I never yelled, “Stop!” I didn’t even ask you if you were okay. I just walked right by you when I got off the bus. I didn’t tell the bus driver. I didn’t tell a teacher. I didn’t tell my mom. You didn’t either. You took matters into your own hands. You kept showing up, every morning and afternoon. You didn’t back down. You didn’t change your seat. And, most importantly, you didn’t change a single thing about you. This is what helped you make it in high school. A lesson I should’ve learned, instead of running away. To this very day, I think about you and I think about all the kids that need a Richard to walk them through a crowded hallway or a to sit next to in a hot and stinky bus. I wish I can clone and distribute you to every high school, so you can help kids stand up to bullies, even silent ones like me.