Can I tell you about my best day of 1998? I’d like to tell you about my best day of 1998.
I think it was a Tuesday because I’m pretty sure all my Creative Writing classes at Wayne State were on either Tuesdays or Thursdays. And I’m reasonably sure that my Intro to Creative Writing class was on a Tuesday. That doesn’t really matter. I’m just organising my thoughts.
Exactly one week before my best day I had a bad day. I turned in my first short story for my Intro to Creative Writing class and, man, I was an absolute mess about. I was sure my new professor, who had quite clearly told us that sugar coating was for donuts not writers, was going to hate it.
It was a pretty slight but funny story called Becoming Robert about a girl named Alice who feared she was turning into her exboyfriend after a messy breakup. I didn’t want him to hate it. I was desperate to impress him. On the first day of class he’d told me in his thick Argentine accent that he was already writing a movie about me in his head. I had a lot to live up to.
He saved my story till last and I was losing my mind all through class. I think I participated in the other critiques, I know I chewed my pen the whole way through. I remember asking at the smoke break if my story could be next. He just laughed at me and made me wait.
When we finally got to my story he held up his copy and I could see a million, possibly 2 million, red circles on the first page. I was sure he was going to order me out of the class room and tell me to drop the class. He would make me change my major. I was done. I would just go lay down on Cass Ave and wait to be run over by a car. Instead, he said it was the best story of the week. That he hated one line in the last paragraph and that my abuse of commas was shameful, but otherwise it was a great story.
I’ve had some really good moments in my life, I’m a lucky person in that regard, but that moment remains one of the best. Osvaldo Sabino was one of the best teachers I’ve ever had, and not just because he liked my stories. He knew how to encourage and antagonize in just the right ways. He was a pain in the ass and an absolute wonder in just about equal parts. He was always trying to set me up with cute boys. I needed to live more according to him. And he was always encouraging me to pursue scholarships and opportunities.
And I was just one of many who were lucky enough to know him.
He died unexpectedly on Tuesday. It’s been 16 years since I last saw him in person and I feel like it was just last week that I was sitting around the big round table at Z’s on the corner of Woodward and Warren with him and his partner, Chris Leland, part of a crew of young people passionate about words and stories and saying something real and true.
Thanks for your time and your knowledge, Os. And the absinthe, too.