I opened the document. I looked at the wife and said, laughing, “Well, at least there’s no red on the title page.” I touched my fingers to the pad and scrolled down. Suddenly the right margin was flooded with a river of red. My heart quickened. I scrolled slowly to the next page. The river apparently ran directly into the sea. The right margin was now a solid stripe of red that, as I continued to scroll, seemed to have no end. By the fourth page, I was wondering if I had given up my teaching career without thinking it through.
Suddenly there was a page with a pristine margin. No red of any kind. I was intrigued. How was it possible that I, the queen of misused commas and passive voice, had managed to write a whole page without error? Surely the editor must have missed this page somehow. I stopped and stared at the black and white page. Could it be true? Was I actually capable of producing a whole page of written English language with no blunders? Surely there had been a mistake.
I scrolled to the next page. The stripe of blood red again coursed the margin. I quickly returned to the white page, heart beating rapidly. Oh my god, I knew I wasn’t any good at this. I should have kept that teaching job, no matter how sick I got. Was it too late to seek redemption? Surely, somebody would hire me. Oh no! I blew the doors off the closet when I came out of that school. I announced to the world on the Internet that I was, and I quote, “Proud to be a lesbian.” Shit!
By now the wife is staring at me, wondering if I am capable of speech. She keeps saying, “Well?” I had no words at the moment. I stared at the screen and prayed for guidance. “Breathe, honey,” hits my ears, but I am frozen, absolutely paralyzed by the magnitude of my folly. My little voice, the nagging old hag at the back of my brain, is singing her same old tune, “You better look for a real job.” Strange how that voice sounds so much like my mother.
The clear white margin calls to me. I turn to the wife and say, “Gimme a minute.” I begin to read the page. I start out looking for the mistakes the editor obviously missed. I examine every word and punctuation mark. I reread sentences to double check for any signs of the dreaded passive voice. It’s not until the last sentence that I realize I had stopped editing halfway down the page. Drawn into the story, I forgot to proofread and instead found myself on a beach in North Carolina.
I was breathing again and though faced with the daunting task of an ocean of red in the margins, I turned to the wife and said, grinning, “It’s okay. I can fix this.” Then I did what any rational human being would do. I closed the file and went in search of alcohol.