Day 1 of 1,000 by Jeanne Malmgren

Winner - The 2024 We Love Short Shorts Contest

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empty classroom with dim lights

As he walks into the classroom, no one takes notice. They’re deep in conversation or dozing in their seats, plugged into ’70s rock on Walkmans.

I’m new here, a transfer student, friend of nobody. I’ve staked out a seat in the back corner, far right. My safe zone.

He’s at the lectern now, shuffling papers.

“Welcome to Spanish-American Lit, folks. Hopefully you’re in the right place. Let’s run through the roster and see.”

When he calls my name, I raise my hand. He looks up, his gaze locking on me for a moment longer than necessary. He smiles.

Something flutters inside my chest. Tiny tremor of hummingbird wings.

I of course know nothing about what’s to come.

How we’ll seek privacy whenever and wherever we can—his office, his car, motel rooms. How I’ll become a consummate liar, reckless, shameless, his apprentice in the art of deceit. How two years later I’ll cross the stage at commencement, desperately scanning the rows of faculty faces in search of his, hating that afterwards he’ll drive home to his wife and child—as he does every time. How three years later we’ll give up, my heart splintering into a million glass shards.

How even now, writing these words almost 50 years later, the pain stirs.

Class is over. Other students filing out. He’s standing beside my desk, inside my safe zone.

“Heyyy,” he says.

His voice is a river, wild and free, surging into the dry canyon of my life.

Our end begins.

Meet the Contributor

Jeanne MalmgrenJeanne Malmgren is an author and psychotherapist in private practice who lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina. Her writing has appeared in The Mother Earth News, where she was an associate editor, and the Tampa Bay Times, where she was an award-winning feature writer and editor for 20 years. She is co-author of Journey to Mindfulness (Wisdom Publications, 2017). Her next book, a memoir on disability and trauma, will be serialized on Substack this summer. She holds a master’s degree in clinical mental health.

  3 comments for “Day 1 of 1,000 by Jeanne Malmgren

  1. Dear Jeanne–This piece is just so skillful and moving. Every word from title to closing keeps the narrative building and shifting. Beautifully done.

    Cheers,
    Mimi

  2. I married at 18. He was 42 and a psychiatric nurse in the hospital I was residing in. Well, before they fired him. Our marrraige lasted two months over one thousand miles from my hometown. I have no regrets about that relationship.

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