The Plastic Banana
There is a person a couple floors down in the building next door squatting. Not sure they have any clothes on.
I could hardly see them in the dark space. It was only when they shifted I realised I was seeing skin sitting cross-legged behind the jumble of clear plastic covering pieces of furniture and random stuff. The apartment resembled a set on an episode of Crime Scene Investigation.
Are you looking out your window?
Sitting at the desk. Writing on laptop. Oh wait. There are two of them. They have clothes on.
It was a Sunday morning in New York City. I was texting with my sister in the hotel room next door. We were both waiting for the coffee to finish brewing.
There is a person above them.
I see her too, Susie text back.
Ha! We were both looking out our window at the same thing. The lights had popped on in the apartment above the crime scene. Was the woman in a white nightgown getting ready to walk her dog? Nope! There wasn’t a little dog attached to the end of a leash pulling her to the door; That’s a mop! The leash was a handle instead, and she pushed it back and forth in front of her while walking backwards, from the front door all the way to the kitchen. Then the tv blinked bright on a wall. She plopped down on the couch out of view to watch the news. Who mops first thing on a Sunday morning?, I wondered.
Coffee is ready, I texted to my sister.
I sipped mine from the clear plastic of a Solo cup. This is what they brought to our room after I stopped at the front desk the previous night to ask for coffee cups.
There’s no coffee in your room? he asked.
There’s coffee, just no cups.
He looked at me quizzically, but said, Sure thing. We’ll send some right up.
It was clear whoever had last checked out of the room had swiped the paper cups, sans lids, before vacating the room. A few minutes later, knuckles rapped our door. A young guy stood there with a short stack of Solo cups in his hands.
Uhh, sorry. This is all we have, he said handing them to me.
Seriously? What hotel doesn’t have a single coffee cup to its name?
I wanted to say this, but didn’t. I wasn’t going to sweat ‘the small stuff’ on vacation, but realized even then this could be a problem come morning. Solo cups do not sweat it either; they melt.
A couple of days before departing for New York, I called the hotel to inquire about the coffee in the rooms.
Oh yes, there is coffee in the rooms!
Ok, that’s great. What kind?
What do you mean?
Is it k-cups?
Is the coffee in pods?
Oh yes, you just call and we will bring more to your room!
Ok, thank you!
I crossed ‘coffee maker’ off my list as I loaded it into the car. There was nothing worse than starting any day, especially on vacation, with shitty coffee. Now I was sipping good coffee I had brought with me, in a disposable cup shaped like a banana, one side shrunk like a thick torso leaning over, the rolls of fat stacked against one other. The mangled cup was a cheap metaphor for a televised pitch of erectile dysfunction. All while watching two shadows languish in a crime-scene lair covered in a sheet of plastic, as the girl above mops her apartment and watches tv, wondering who these people are and what they do here in New York City.
(Am I writing at the desk, or just watching out the window?)
Get to the Hot Tub
Just get to the hot tub …
Right from the start.
A student blurted this edict as a beacon for writers to strive towards when tumbling through the cosmos of story. Minutiae is the invasive weed Kudzu entangling writers’ minds for centuries everywhere. Later, cackling, we revised it to “Get to the hot tub, and take off your pants!” We were discussing another writer’s piece. She wrote a colourful backdrop about a recent trip to Wyoming to visit friends, before getting to the nuts and bolts of her story.
The truck broke down nine miles from the house one night when they were checking cows. They hoofed it back in the dark, encountering a creek several feet deep along the way. It was either remove their pants, or continue with wet bluejeans clinging to their skin, like plastic wrappers glued to a melted bar of chocolate. They stripped down. My mother’s words rang in my head: Always wear fresh drawers, because you just never know, she had said repeatedly growing up. This was in reference to the possibility of an unforeseen ambulance ride on any given day, made more likely by my chosen sport and subsequent career. Anyway, we suggested scrapping the soliloquy at the beginning, and to go straight to the action.
I am so grateful for my writing class. This was the second session of the summer. Same class, same teacher, same students as the previous session. I know each person well enough now, when I read their stories the night before class, the words sound off in their own voices. It’s absolutely phenomenal. So far, there is only one drawback to class: all the book recommendations. My petty cash is negatively correlating to my expanding book stash. The slide downward is further greased by the fact Amazon sells used books from third-party vendors. That’s more book for the buck. (My struggle between paying artists what they are due and subscribing to sustainability [by recycling books] is real. It’s a two-headed snake.)
I can’t blame class alone. I started listening to a new podcast: the Ezra Klein Show, after Kara Swisher hosted an episode of his on her own podcast Sway, while she was on break. He ends each interview by asking the guest for three book recommendations. My latest purchases are: Fierce Attachments by Vivian Gornick; Stories of Your Life by Ted Chiang; Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness by Peter Godfrey-Smith; and Middlemarch by George Eliot. Right now, I’m reading Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury; The Penguin Book of the Modern Short Story; and E.B. White’s On Dogs.
Last night was my last writing class for this session. It was bittersweet. Will everyone sign up for another class with the same teacher this fall? Will we be able to replicate this same experience and keep it running for a while? I sure hope so. The teacher is supposed to keep in touch, check in with us to see where everyone is at the beginning of September. She can count me in, even though I’ve already registered for other classes this fall. I’ll make it happen, because finding a group that meshes organically is difficult and rare, all of us trying to get to that hot tub, hopefully wearing clean drawers…at least some of the time.