Archive for October, 2013

October 6, 2013

Writing in the Plains

It has been a long time since I have written. Summer is not a writing season, at least not for me. The summer time is spent searching for pitchers and fielders and batters. Or quarterbacks and receivers. Or ballers. Or tennisers. Or frolfers. Or I accept that no one will play, and so I play alone; I grab my blades, stick, and ball, and I find an empty parking lot. Or barren warehouse. The point, I believe, is that summer weather welcomes all sports and so summer weather envelops me.

But that is too simple, as if my summer life boiled down to sleeping, working, eating, and sports. The fact is that life is busy. People meander in and out of the coffee shop of my life, some lounging, some making a pitstop, some commanding the space, some working, some cowed by the environs. New responsibilities, new challenges. Life changes and priorities change. I wanted a retreat, a time to withdraw and to pray and to write and to write and to write. But responsibilities do not stop; the world does not press pause and let you regroup. You must prepare for the continuation before you withdraw or else everything will erupt. And for me, even when I withdraw, I’m not withdrawn. So why waste time in retreat.

I’m about eight hours from home at the moment. With some friends, I’ve driven to Nebraska for a wedding. We reserved a motel room claiming three adults and then snuck in an extra three. We made whiskey milkshakes and played board games and card games and listened to Lorde; we crammed into the bed and wriggled into sleeping bags and giggled and chortled until we collectively stopped talking. I “forgot” to turn off my alarm, the alarm that plays the most abrasive metal song I know, The Dillinger Escape Plan’s 43% Burnt. I slipped out of the darkness into the continental breakfast in yesterday’s clothes, Junot Diaz’s This is How You Lose Her in my hand.

Breakfast is like every other motel breakfast; the TV hoisted to the ceiling displays everywhere-but-local weather coverage, the clear dispensers hold nondescript cereal, OJ and AJ, cigarette flavored coffee, bleach white bread, waffle mix, yogurt, cold biscuits and crock pot gravy. Diaz attempts to describe Dominican American life above the caterwauling television and the gossiping diners, whom I don’t know, but we all know from every motel continental breakfast. Geriatric couples mingle among the tables, making themselves waffles. They speak to each other as old friends, as though this is the local diner where they typically meet each other on Sunday mornings. Maybe it is. The couple to my left are wearing matching red polos tucked into pleated khakis.

Well, are you ready to hit the road? one asks another behind me; I suddenly envision every one of these couples creaking out into the parking lot, only to gingerly position themselves onto the most badass Harleys I’ve ever seen, red polos and all. They do not suddenly transform into badasses themselves; they remain, fragile old men and women. This posse rides their hogs like they drive their Lincolns and Buicks, ten under the speed limit in the fast lane with their blinker on for miles.

I finish my liquid cigarette, pour myself another, and slip back into the dark room where no one has stirred. I set down Diaz and leave the room again with my laptop, this time for the lobby. This is the outskirts of the great Nebraska City, where the lobby computer still runs Windows 98 and sounds like it requires its own generator. Cloaked in white noise, I settle in to write; it has been a long time and I’m not sure how to start. I open Word. I sip on coffee. I open Chrome. I am eight hours from work and I can still connect, logging into my email to check for emergencies so they don’t become someone else’s emergencies.

But really it’s distraction. I’m not ready to write. I don’t have anything to say. Not that I often have anything to say. But after an absence I feel I need to explain myself. Why haven’t you been writing? Why do you bother writing now? Why should anyone bother reading this? I don’t have any answers for any of those questions except that they don’t matter. This was fun, sitting on a surprisingly comfortable couch as my fellow vagabonds slept; the random conversations of the continental breakfast and the occasional lobby attendant functioning as my morning background.

The view from a cramped Nebraska City motel room.

The view from a cramped Nebraska City motel room.

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