It took me 20 minutes to make the 10 minute drive to the bank. My palms were sweating and my heart was racing as I finally came to a stop at the drive through. Sharon waved and smiled, pulled the microphone close and said "Hi John." I fumbled with the metal cylinder, inserted my deposit and a brazen note that said "Will you go out with me?" then hit the green button. I took a deep breath and waited.
Sharon was a year older than me, a senior in high school when I was a junior. She was clever, polite and oh so pretty. During English class I would often glance her way hoping that she would do the same, but she was usually paying attention. We exchanged pleasantries and opinions of certain authors or books but it never went beyond that. She was dating a football player, an ill-mannered one at that. One that was quick to belittle, mock or threaten anyone he didn't approve of, especially when that person was complimented by the English teacher.
"Mr. Malik, your essay on F. Scott Fitzgerald was exemplary." Cue the sneers, eye rolls and crude sexual pantomimes from the football player. Sharon though, would turn to me and smile. What on earth did she see in that guy? That summer I heard that she had finally broken up with him. Two weeks later she started working at my local bank, as a teller in the drive through window. The time had come but I couldn't just walk in and ask her out. When asking a girl out, timing and technique were critical. What may have worked for Robin wasn't going to work for Sharon.
And now, many years later, I find myself in that same metaphorical boat. I'm looking for a literary agent for my novel and damn if I don't feel like I'm 16 all over again. The process and emotions are eerily similar. I plot, plan and carefully script the query to my novel hoping that the object of my desire will say yes please, show me a bit more.
"I'd love to take a ride in your car, John. I've dumped that ill-mannered football player and I'm looking for a sensitive, clever, athletic type just like yourself."
I know she's out there. I've met plenty through my online dating ritual. I open up their websites and read their mini bios:
"My name is Janice, I absolutely adore books and I'm on the lookout for a heroic, well-muscled and well-equipped fireman to spark a steamy, contemporary romance."
Nope, she won't do so it's onto the next agent, then the next one then one more until I come across Jenny, and she looks very promising. Her photo was taken at a fresh market, cases of apples just off her right shoulder. Hmm -- she likes to cook, she mentions a few of her favorite cookbooks and she's looking for a well-crafted love story. Now we're getting somewhere. I look over my query letters. I have several so I send her the one that mentions chocolate cake and doughnuts and point out that I'm a chef that has written a love story. I just know her eyes will bloom and her heart may skip a beat.
"He's a chef that's written a love story -- Oh my!" She's going to love me, I just know it. I'm certain she'll say yes please, I'd like to see more. But a few weeks later she says no then I'm 16 all over again. I'm crushed; we were perfect for one another, so why did she say no? What was it about me that she didn't like? Is it because my novel is set in a retirement community or perhaps because I used the word Alzheimer's? Or maybe she was really looking for a football player and not a chef. The scenarios tumble through my conscious until it's time to move on. And unlike in high school, there's no best friend to relay her reasoning; you've just got to shrug it off and move forward. It's back to the search, looking for agents that have represented authors in my genre. Just like in the game of love, this requires persistence. I'll get there, I know I will.
My heart was pounding and the bile rose up from the pit of my stomach. Sharon opened the metal cylinder and went about her routine of making yet another deposit. Then she saw my note and looked at me -- and laughed. She covered her mouth with her right hand and laughed. Damnit! My heart sank. Then her twinkling eyes caught mine through the bullet-proof glass, she smiled that gorgeous smile of hers, reached for her microphone and said, "Yes, John."