The sound of bubbling, boiling water rose suddenly and the the white teapot anchored to the wall of the hotel clicked off with a muddled thwack of plastic on plastic. The mirror in the hotel room was placed just above the electric kettle and was all fogged up in the steaming. The clarity in my mind turned to a cloudy vapor eerily similar to my tea water.
I’ve been sitting at my laptop for four to five hours a night for the last five weeks now trying to start a new story. Nothing comes out. Two, three, four in the morning; I stare at the LCD screen, pound away, drink more coffee, more tea, more whiskey or — you know — whatever’s on ice.
Oh, sure, all the stimulus in the world comes in when you’re a professional consultant for a major software company, but you never have time to jot it down. And when you’re a pathetic void of short-term memory like I am, there are few thoughts that you hold on to for very long. Besides, there’s always something else in this life of constant movement: the phone that rings, buzzes with text messages from faraway lands; a chat request comes in. Shit.
I close my browser, press buttons, turn off connections, rip out the wireless card. Then the tea clicks, or you get hungry. Or you remember that you’re in a new city this week and start to wonder why the hell you’re still pent up in your hotel room of all places?
And the next thing you know you’ve lost that momentum you had. The words you knew would be great when you finally put them on paper.
But it’s happened before. Oh well.
I ended up putting my laptop aside and got up to get my tea. I needed something to warm up my fingers, which seem to be the only part of my body that’s reptilian in nature and can’t warm itself. I guess it comes from living for large parts of the day with my hand over a friction machine like a notebook’s keyboard, especially one as poorly designed as this one. I don’t know if it’s the battery or the hard drive or the processor they they decided to place directly beneath your palms. But whatever the hardware, it’s no wonder that my body heat regulators on my hands are completely shot to shit.
Dammit, who designed these things? And why am I writing about it?
Dammit, we got off track there. That’s ok. We’re back now and things are going to move.
Now that we’re done with that digression, where should we go?
Jesus, I’ve been doing this for a long time.
Remember that hotel room? Was it in LA? My flight had landed at one in the morning on a red-eye straight from Orlando. After an hour of traffic I arrived at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Los Angeles at two in the morning. The behemoth was a concrete monstrosity of columns with no end. And when eventually I found my room there was a moaning and knocking against the wall that wouldn’t stop — and it was a bad time for that kind of noise on the brain. Too much violent sex going on in the room next door. She was clearly faking it and he could clearly care less. He went on, grunting and howling to her forced moans and screams saying filthy things and asking for more. A bad porn movie, maybe? I thought. No way this is my reality.
Another week at around the same time frame — where was I? I think it was in a Marriott but in a room further south across The Grid in Brea by the Cal State Fullerton. It was three in the morning but there was a conversation nearby — what was it,exactly? The male voice was in its late 50′s or maybe his early 60′s and had a weak quiver behind its masculine age. She couldn’t have been older than 38. If that. And dumb as a rock.
The conversation might’ve gone for hours if left to its own devices. The two talked openly of her breast implants in the hotel hallway outside of my room. I could only guess how many hair tosses she gave him, how many open shots to feel her up right there in that beige corridor of gloom. Like a withering tree he stood, firmly interested but unable to move beyond his reluctance. Maybe he had a wife at home; maybe kids he loved. Who knows? He wanted so badly to give it to her, that much was clear. He was ready and willing to just do her hard and dirty, pressed against yellowing wallpaper and ugly carpeting, but something held him back viciously. What was it…?
Who cares? IT’S THREE AM, I remember thinking. I’d poked my head out into the hallway and pointed my eyes in their direction, hissing and staring until they disapeared from view.
In Kansas city I’d had to order up a small bottle of Nordic vodka to sip as I leaned out the window of that 5th story building. Out in that flat expanse that reminded me of the stark emptiness of the bottom of the ocean I’d had my first glimpses of what life on the move was going to be like, witnessing the reality of people who accepted their own existence because they simply didn’t know any better. Then snow began to fall and didn’t stop for 3 days, mixing with the ash and sorrow that midwest hole exuded. And since then I’ve seen it again and again, in places all over the world.
How much weirdness can a man take in his short life and at what point does it become too much, this notion of chasing freedom, of chasing happiness? At what point is the courage to do it, not matter the odds, no matter the perils, no matter the heartbreak to you or others pass the point of practical and into the realm of wrecklessness, or worse, childish?
I wonder at all the faces I see in airports, restaurants, hotels and side streets. Terrifying genius in some, creepy emptiness in others. And most of them unimpressive. I wonder if I will tire of looking.