Ode to the Statement: A Behind the Scenes Look at Student Publications


Rachel Red

Only death can save you now. Even then, you muse as you stare up at the ceiling tiles, arm flung across your forehead with enough weight to dredge up a headache, your article deadline will live on without you. A sigh flops from your lips. Unwillingly, tension sparking at the edges of your vision, your gaze slides towards the laptop perched on the bed at your waist. On the screen is the white background of mockery with no black to flavor the expanse save for the minutes ticking away in the bottom right corner.


Only 17 hours and 36 minutes until noon.


Your eyelids squeeze shut. A breath clots in your throat, and your nostrils flare from the emotion knotting in the bridge of your nose. If not for this article, you could be binge watching season six of Psych—with the week you’ve had, you should be binge watching season six of Psych. Instead, you’re lying in bed, swallowing against the frustration knotted at your throat and grappling for the words just out of reach. All you have to do is catch them, like so many butterflies, and fling them onto the keyboard, just enough of them to reach a page and a half, two if the Muses are singing. But no matter what you do, no matter how long you stare at that screen, the words won’t come.


You went to the exhibition opening with notebook in hand, ready to transcribe events as you saw them, so sure that the only story there was the one you were seeking. Then came a man, a man who peeled back history like a Band-Aid turned grubby gray at the edges. He stood there, hands hanging out his front pockets, shoulders thrown back almost unconsciously, frayed baseball cap pushed back on his forehead just enough that you could see wisps of hair like white ash. His voice was slow and swallowed words in a warmth like molasses. There was a hole straining to appear in his faded jeans, the bottoms of which disappeared into work boots with the steel-toe tips his daddy had raised him to wear. Every crease in his clothes melded with the sweat dampening the neck of his t-shirt, and spoke to another workday.


With every word he let out, your focus faded until you were swirling in his story, and you only half remembered to jot a note or two for the article you had come to write, the article that escaped you at that moment. Your eyes watered as he named the men he used to know, the friendships he still holds in his chest, next to the metal shard doctors tip-toe around every check-up. When he noticed your expression, what must have been a glazed gaze and a frown scraped onto your forehead, he smiled and took one hand out of his pocket to run across the width of his scarred cheek.


I didn’t mean to ramble, he said. His flush was hidden beneath flesh burned leather brown and twice as tough. My wife used to say I could talk the ears off the corn stalks if left long enough.


It took a few heartbeats for his words to make sense, just long enough for your arms to sag and your notebook to nearly slip from your grip. When had your palms become so sweaty?


No, no, you hastened to assure him. This is great, this gold!


The deadline looms.


With a half moan, half roar, you surge upright at the waist, eyes opening to slits and gaze skewering the keyboard. Your clawed hands snap forward. Mouth twisted, brows knitted, you stab at the keys until something starts taking form out of the void. Every punch of the space bar tightens your muscles, and when your gaze finally catches on the digital clock, your throat closes. A croak warbles out to drown in the steady hum of your desk fan.


It’s two in the morning, and nothing the man said ended up in your article. After all, you had been sent there for a story on the event opening, not a poor farmer’s hero days. Maybe it’s best this way, you tell yourself as you stare at the shadows dancing across the far wall. Throwing his words out there, like so much brightly colored, reflective confetti, wouldn’t have felt real, not like hearing them from his mouth, wouldn’t it? Besides, you now have a two-page article on the art exhibition, and in the three minutes it takes you to dash to the bathroom, brush your teeth, scrub the drool from your cheek, wrangle your limbs into what smells like clean pajamas, and flop back into bed, you can’t stop smiling—because you did it. Even though it felt like ripping out your own soul, you wrote that article, and tomorrow, when you turn it in, you’ll have an entire afternoon of blissfully pretending you never even heard of the Delta Statement.


But his words remain. Maybe—an idea unfolds in your mind with the fragility of a dandelion swaying in the wind—maybe you can record his story, preserve the life and history he shared with you. It would have to be another article, of course, your next perhaps! A special feature, your first of the semester. Excitement bubbles in your fingertips. Here you are, having turned over one story, another already whirling in steam and grease in your mind, amazed you had once never even heard of the Delta Statement.


This is, of course, an extreme, and more often than not, Student Publications is like any other class: quizzes, homework, and class discussions. Every now and then, however, you come across a story that challenges you, that stretches your skills to their limits (which, you are usually surprised to see, are beyond what you expected), and makes you see the world around you in a different light, however slight or monumental the change may be. That—the change, the shift, the growth—is what makes it all worthwhile.