You’re A Writer

You’re a writer, Jonatha said, as if I had asked.  Although maybe I had, not directly, but with that sappy ass look I had been displaying every day since we arrived.  Do you like me, the look asked, as if that’s what’s I was here for to begin with.

Esalen.  A summer camp for adults.  Complete with the ice cold glasses of milk poured from white plastic utters of stand alone fridge at the side of the dining hall.

There’s a darkness around you, she said.  I feel bad for you, but it’s good for your writing.  And then she was gone leaving me standing next to a toasting machine in constant motion as if waiting for someone to feed it a slice.

There had been lots of lonely that week.  Those pacific coast cliffs carving out endless space around me, tearing up the edge of the ocean and raising up into the night holding up that endless matt of stars.  My mouth gaping open that first night, head cracked back, like I could catch one in my mouth as it fell, splattering bright marks across the sky.

I talked to everyone but got to know no one.  Except Sam. I had wanted to braid my hair with hers the instant she spoke up in our group.  I’m throw up in my boot nervous, she had said by way of introduction.

We sat in that fish bowl of a room, all twenty-seven of us.  One set of windows pointing out onto the ocean, the other up into a small sharp shooter poking lodger set in the hills. It wasn’t unusual to walk into a room like this one in the evening and find a figure communing with the dark.

I had driven up with a thin gray-haired woman, small and stylish, with a fresh flower set in her tightly wound bun.  The car had no AC and she did not give a damn.  I was late meeting her and so was the other woman who drove up with us, a cafe owner.  The fourth woman was just married and enthusiastically signed up for courses, first this one and then one at the French Culinary Institute of New York.

When we arrived on the campus our driver unpacked the trunk and told us all to have a good week, even though we were bound to meet each other again on the expansive sun covered deck where everyone from all classes would meet for lunch, to drink garden herbed water from palm sized glasses with salads of lettuce and figs grown on the grounds.

It was that kind of lunch that made me hungry.  Drew me to that late night snack table to begin with.  Something feeling scratchy and unsatisfied, yearning for comforting foods, pasta, pizza, things that get at the surface level of hunger but never underneath.

So I had walked into the dark dining room late at night, through which one would pass on their way to the moonlight sulfur baths set on the side of the mountain.  I had skulked around that snack table and slathered some peanut butter on whole grain bread with a mini-spatula made to pull alternative butter out of buckets when Jonatha had arrived to do the same.  She in her Emily doll like outfit, her black rimmed glasses, her dark banks heavy across her forehead.

I’m sorry, I think I said, before she left.  Feeling like I must have been a burden to them, the real writers, who I loomed around, in hopes that I could lap up the edges of their confidence by sitting next to them in the heated pools.

Trust me, I’m not wrong about these things, she had said over her shoulder. On the last day of our workshop she left in the morning.  Something about a cat who would need an appointment on the same day when we would sit together on the floor on those oversized pillows and say our thanks to each other, and our goodbyes.


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