Max sat down in his swivel chair in the seminar room, excited for his first creative writing workshop as an undergraduate. He had written a piece he was really proud of regarding his experience with intergenerational trauma and racism. His peers had, thus far, seemed very woke and understanding and the writing submitted to the class up until this point had been very personal and visceral stories. The group overall had developed a great rapport, and the professor had been competent and helpful.

The workshop began, and Max was first up. The rules of class workshops stated that the writer of the piece wasn’t allowed to speak during the workshop, and Max was very cognizant of that requirement. Things were going smoothly, and he was taking notes on his peers’ insightful comments. An organizational change here, a little more description there. And then, Emily, a white woman who was sitting next to Max, raised her hand to speak.

“I’m confused by the organization of it. I don’t understand how generations of trauma impact your current experience with anti-Latinx racism,” Emily said.

Max was taken aback. He turned his head to look at his professor, to silently implore her to intervene. She averted eye contact.

This made Max so upset that, slowly and deliberately, his head rotated 360 degrees about its axis like an owl or an individual in need of an exorcism. Obviously, histories of pain and injustice inform the present. He could not believe a “liberal” student at NYU had said something so foolish and ignorant. The next peer who raised her hand was June, another white female peer.

“It strikes me as very childlike. Like, the girl you were here, she was so pure and innocent.”

Max’s body began to deflate. He had tried so hard to insist on his pronouns and be open about his gender. He presented pretty masculinely, and his name was Max, for fucks sake. Again, Max turned to the professor for support, and again she busied herself with shuffling through her small stack of papers and staring up into the classroom’s singular fluorescent light.

Emily spoke again. “I agree with June. Also…I just, not to say that you’re not likable or anything, but this piece makes you seem kind of whiny and unlikable. I just…don’t know how I would go about fixing it, even.”

Max’s face became red and hot with anger. He could not believe someone had launched a personal attack on him during the workshop of such an emotional piece in a personal essay class. So shocked was he by the class’ stupidity and awfulness that with a slight pop his head detached from his shoulders and proceeded to fly around the room like a deflating helium balloon. His decapitated body, now empty of its insides, slunk out of the chair onto the ground. He never recovered.

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