Event Review: Halina Duraj at Living Writers Series
It was that time of the semester again when students, professors, and others came together to attend Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers Series at the San Diego State University Love Library. Twice a semester, the public gets to hear from “prominent and emerging poets and writers for readings, workshops, salon discussions, and classroom lectures.” The series that began 25 years ago was named after Hugh C. due to his generous endowment in 2000; thanks to him these types of sneak previews are made possible for students like me.
On October 9th, 15 minutes past 7:00pm, Halina Duraj illuminated Room LL 430 with her uplifting personality. Instead of reading her past work, she gave her audience a sneak preview of her “soon to be released series of short stories” The Company She Keeps. Halina Duraj is both a writer and an assistant professor at University of San Diego who teaches creative writing. Before she began reading, she warned us about the structure of her story and explained,“it could be June/July and then it jumps back into a point in the past.” To be honest, I was glad she gave us a fair warning or else I would have been lost.
Soon after her disclaimer, Halina’s perky voice filled the room with a mix of love affairs and deception. The story features the horror of a narrator befriending a woman, only to soon find out that she’s having an affair with her soon to be husband, Jay, This becomes a living nightmare. Halina places her audience right in the mist of how distraught the unnamed narrator becomes after finding out about the affair between Jay and Emy. Stuck in limbo, she tries her best to tell people “Jay and I are working it out” when deep down she knows not even a pile of self-help books about saving a marriage is going to resolve her problems. I noticed that Halina’s unnamed main character spends a lot of her time longing to forgive Jay and at other moments of clarity she’s filled with rage again.
As I sat there, completely unaware of Halina’s published work prior to the sneak peak she was presenting, I noticed how this story was unique. The Company She Keeps has a twisted affair within an affair that effected a soon-to-be wedded couple and of course Emy’s husband, Daniel. Unlike typical affairs within married couples, this particular affair affects an engaged couple by putting them in a difficult position. I couldn’t help but wonder what I would do if I were in the same situation as the narrator. Does she give the relationship up or does the couple leave the past behind? Like those reading this event review, those who attended the Series that night did not have a chance to ask questions about Halina’s story. I had many follow-up questions to ask, but did not get the chance to speak. Except for my unanswered questions, I was deeply engaged in the reading because right when I decided that Jay ends the affair with Emy because he wants to save his engagement, author Halina reveals that Emy is the one who ends the affair to have sex with Gill, or as the narrator explicitly states “to fuck Gill”. I found it hilarious that Halina cleverly refers to sex as “fucking” throughout her story because it helps ease the complex situation the narrator is facing.
I let out my last chuckle when Halina stopped reading and thanked her colleagues, her supportive students, and those who were “forced to be there for a class.”