I sit at my rain-specked window, absently tracking the patterns of the wet circles on the pavement. Streetlights glisten as dusk becomes night. I hold my pen above my blank notebook, ready to strike, waiting for the words to emerge from out of my numb repose. They don't come. The notebook is balanced comfortably on my lap. I can't concentrate here. A move to the living room proves no better. I sit stiffly at the dining table, in public view of my roommates on the couch, watching whatever brain-destroying crap passes for television these days. The view from my window is what I need, but it's no good without a proper writing surface.
A room of my own. That's what Woolf said. I have the room, but it's no good without somewhere to write. The fiction contest closes in a month. If I can't even take myself seriously as a writer, hunched in a corner attempting to scribble in my diary like some angsty teenager, how can I expect the Atlantic editors to? A proper desk, where I can sit comfortably, notebook and laptop open and ready, staring out the window, recording my revelries without banging my elbow against the wall.
Michelle just posted pictures from her latest trip to Ikea, and Jen just picked up an antique wardrobe. Where do these people get the money? They're not so much richer than me- than I am. All I can think about is going furniture shopping- something simple, rustic, but elegant, a little French country, white with delicate drawer handles and slightly tarnished embellishments in the corners. I saw one at one of those pseudo-antique chain furniture stores. For over $1,000. On sale. That's two months' rent. I'm just out of University, an aspiring writer with a shitty job. I barely have a thousand cents to my name. I should check Craigslist again, just in case anyone is giving away a desk for free. This calls for a cup of tea. A strong herbal tea is practically a meal, right?
Four hours later, and I have confirmed that absolutely no one has missed connecting with me. Or rather, everyone has, they just don't know it. That's the spirit. It may be because I never go out. Oh, one day I will actually have the funds to socialize with friends, eating at the restaurants I read reviews about, glamourously sipping cocktails while appraising the crowd at hip, posh bars with my hip, posh socialite circle. I'll be noticed, first for my legs, and then for my pithy observations on local culture and status-driven symbology. After I dress down enough for a writing job at the trendiest local magazine, my unique sense of wit and stylish flair with adjectives will be noticed by the editors of the New Yorker, and they'll offer me a position. I'll wear designer shoes and drink expensive wines and work from home, penning culture-defining literary pieces, while surreptitiously working on my novel, the genre-defying, ground-breaking work of fiction that will go straight from the best seller list to the class syllabus, all from my shabby chic, faux-antique, French country teak desk.
I just gotta save up. That's all there is to it. Damn, Atlantic Monthly, I think I have your fiction piece ready for submission by May 30th.
I think I'll have another cup of tea.
I swore I'd get some writing done yesterday. There's no reason I shouldn't have had the time or energy, even if I did agree to work a double shift. But how much can I really ask of myself? A double shift! And I need the money- I can't afford not to work the hours offered me. So, oh well. I took one night off. I'll make up for it today.
Only I can't concentrate. I need privacy to write, which means I'm trapped in my room, where the only comfortable place is my bed. And who can get anything done while lying in bed?
I'll take a walk. Fresh air, stretch the legs, get the blood pumping. Draw inspiration from the city. From nature. From all the strange characters to-ing and fro-ing their way from some unknown source to whatever mysterious appointment had gotten them out of the house today. Going to work. Feeding the birds. Meeting a friend for coffee. Just out for a walk, like me.
I do my best thinking while walking. Something about the rhythm, the solitude that comes from being lost among strangers, seeing the same sights every day that somehow manage to look a little different every time. Trouble is, it's all gone by the time I get home. I reach my front door, and suddenly everything is about dishes and rent.
The "starving artist" is a myth. A fallacy. Money may not buy happiness, but the lack of it certainly hinders creativity. Inspiration cannot thrive if choked by mundane pressures of the everyday. Art cannot flourish beneath the spectre of debt.
I'd like to think this isn't so, that art really does thrive through hardship. I don't ask for much. I don't need to be rich. I'd just like a little desk of my own, from whence the words shall pour from my plume.
Such are the themes of my story- the old man who loses everything, or at least, the thing he holds most dear, something he thought he'd be lost without. But by the end, he realizes that the idea of having is more fulfilling than the actual ownership, that the sense of self he gained and expressed through his possessions would always be part of him, that the journey he's made as a person can never be undone.
I just need to organize my thoughts, clarify and flesh out my story. I can feel it now, the sentences are coming, I'll have it done in no time. Here I was dreading the deadline, counting the wasted seconds ticking away until May 30th. I just need to type it out. If only I had somewhere to do that.
I can't be the first desk-less writer. I shouldn't feel bad about wanting one- Goethe couldn't write without an apple rotting in his- but a real writer should be able should be able to write anywhere, under any circumstances. Cervantes wrote Don Quixote in prison. I'll bet he didn't have a cute faux-antique writing desk from Anthropologie in his cell. I'll sit on the floor if I have to.
Well, no, that hurts my back. There must be a nice coffee shop nearby where I can sit and type away for hours without looking pretentious or having anyone bother me. If only it were warm enough for some patio time today. Maybe I can just scribble in my notebook on a park bench while my thoughts are hot and my hands aren't too cold. I'll head to the little parkette down the block. The subway grate underneath should keep me warm. I just hope it isn't swarming with homeless people today.
Okay, we're in luck, no homeless people. Only the park looks different. Did they add another bench? Weird spot for one. No, it isn't a bench. What is that?
Wait a minute....
Oh my god.
It fits perfectly.
I can’t believe I got it up the stairs all by myself. It wasn’t even that heavy.
Just the right size, perfectly nestled in that little space in front of the window. And it’s white! A little worn, just like I wanted, with the prettiest little brushed steel hardware. Why on earth would someone throw away a perfectly good desk like this?
Oh god, what if it has bedbugs? No, if that were the case, they’d be throwing out bedsheets and mattresses, not just one desk. Maybe it wasn’t thrown away? What if someone was coming back for it? No, it was clearly on the sidewalk, in front of a park even, not a home. What if it’s been peed on? Ew. I’d better give it a thorough cleaning.
Lysol, Vim, Clorox… I’m getting a cleaner cocktail headache. And I haven’t even opened the drawers yet. I wonder if anything’s inside?
Big ones first. Easily removeable. I can turn them upside-down and leave them outside to dry. No secret locked boxes inside? Old letters? Treasure maps? Ah, well. Now the skinny little one up top. The one I stared at all night after I got it home (really should have cleaned it right away, or at least left it outside temporarily), the one I laid my gaze upon until I fell asleep, dreaming of the manuscripts that would soon be placed inside, ready at my fingertips.
It’s a little stuck…
Well, my new friend. Aren’t you full of surprises?
I’m sure the previous owner of this desk meant to throw away a thousand dollars.
Okay, now, what exactly do I do here?
I thought that if I slept on it, I’d come up with an answer. I’ve come up with several, and am no closer to a decision.
Everyone knows that when you find a large sum of money, you’re supposed to turn it into the police. Haha, sounds like I’m a magician who’s going to transform the cash into a group of cops. What to you call a group of cops? An arrest? A badgeful? A donut? This isn’t the time, stay focused. Does $995 count as a “large sum”? I mean, large enough? It’s large to me, but it’s hardly an amount to murder a person over. Who’s going to claim it?
Maybe it’s drug money. Maybe it’s a ransom. “Leave the money in the unattended white desk near the park. It’s fine, no one will take it.” What if it was left there deliberately, and now some innocent child is going to die because of me?
No. There’s no way that $995 is a ransom. It’s a lot of money for me- I mean, jeez, keeping it would be a huge help to me right now- but a kidnapper wouldn’t ask for less then a million. THAN an million. Right?
It’s fairly obvious that it was just left in the drawer by accident. But those other drawers were all empty. Who would clean out a desk of its entire contents, but forget the nearly one thousand in cash? Someone who wouldn’t miss it? Someone who’s got so much money that they’d leave $995 in a trashed desk drawer the way I might accidentally launder a fiver in the pocket of my jeans?
That’s it- money laundering! Wait, does that even make any sense? If I know anything about word association, it’s that it’s the only way to solve a mystery- just keep saying things until you hit upon a plausible explanation. That’s deductive reasoning for you, eh, Watson? I should turn it into the bank. Poof! Now it’s a bank. But seriously, what are they going to do with it? There’s no way to get it to it’s rightful owner. Its. I should know better. They’d just keep it. I would only have succeeded in donating cash to the institution that needs it the least. Maybe my interest rates would go down? Worst joke yet.
That’s it! Charity! I’ll donate it to charity. No one can argue the ethics of that one. But what charity? You hear so many sketchy stories. They take so much off the top. And they have all these rules… I’d have to be upfront about where the money came from, wouldn’t I? People would know my name and know I took it. They’d track me down. It’s a tabloid story that’ll haunt me when I’m famous. Still, I’ve always wanted to donate to charity. Well, if I’m going to be honest, I’ve always wanted to be the type of person who donates to charity, and I would have done it by now if I could afford it. Actually, I still can’t. If I were still being honest, I probably need the money as badly as those people do.
But who am I kidding? Whom? I know perfectly well who this money belongs to… whom, yeah. Clearly it belongs to the people who live in the house next to the park. They’re the ones who threw out the desk, right? Probably. I mean, who knows, really. What if the house is divided into apartments? I show up and offer the person who answers the door $995 cash- who’s going to say no to that? Walking up to a stranger’s door with a grand in cash seems like a bad idea. What if they accuse me of stealing it? What if they want the desk back, too?
You know what? Screw it. Finders keepers. That desk was pure serendipity. It was just what I needed to begin my writing career. It’s mine now. It’s all mine.
Shit! I totally forgot about Lisa’s birthday! I think I have just enough time to pick up a gift before heading to the bar.
Except that I’m pretty strapped for cash. There’s no way I can pick up something decent. She bought me a bottle of Grey Goose and an Hermes scarf for my birthday. “Because we’re such socialites,” she said. Sure. I’m a socialite who’ll be sipping water all night. Maybe the place will have a drink special. What does the invite say?
Twenty dollars? A twenty dollar cover charge? Are the Beatles playing? Is Stevie Wonder DJ’ing? Oh god, I absolutely cannot be the loser who lames out at the last minute because she can’t afford the cover charge. Damn.
Well, there’s one possibility. I’ve been good. Haven’t touched the stuff. Still haven’t figured out what to do with it, frankly. I haven’t gone near it since I found it, and I ate ramen noodles yesterday and have been walking to work so I wouldn’t have to buy a metropass.
I’ll pay it back. By next payday I will have decided what to do with it and I’ll pay it back. It’s just a few bucks, and it’s not even for me, it’s for my friend. It’s her birthday. I can’t not get her a gift, and I can’t possibly not share a drink with her. Doesn’t Lisa deserve it?
Oh god. Oh god. So hungover.
These boots have had a good life. I’ve had them for years. I thought I felt something break when I dragged that stupid desk home (going dancing probably didn’t help, either). I can probably get away with wearing my other shoes at work until I replace my boots. I’m sure no one will notice, as long as I don’t leave it for too long. But they’re so uncomfortable. How the hell am I supposed to walk to work now?
Screw it. Bite the bullet, and just get the damn metropass already.
Having a metropass is actually awesome. I never really appreciated how liberating it is to get on and off the subway or a streetcar without having to fumble around for change or tokens. How did I try to live without it? What a load off. I know it isn’t my money, but when I win that fiction contest prize money, I can replace it with plenty left over.
Damn, that reminds me- the deadline is in two weeks. I better get working.
Beautiful new notebook, ready for a beautiful new story. That’s what was holding me back- it’s far too distracting to be scribbling in the last few pages of my creased and stained old book. Fresh new pages, fresh new pens (the kind where the ink just flows like a river- no, a stream. River sounds like it’ll spill ink all over my paper). A little more expensive than a regular old Bic, but totally worth it.
I really should be typing this. This darn ink keeps smudging. I can barely read my own writing. Typing on a computer screen is so cold, though. I need to be in the right mood. I’m going to drop into Starbucks and watch the hipsters at their laptops. Order a fancy coffee, tap into my inner Ernest Hemingway. Or Gertrude Stein. Or Carrie Bradshaw. Damn, I could really go for a caramel macchiato.
Caved and bought new boots. A little more than I wanted to spend, but they were on sale. And the handbag I got to match is something I’ll use forever. Or at least until I can afford an actual Chanel. One day.
What a great day at the museum! I’m so glad that Lisa suggested it. And dinner at the bistro- so good! I can’t wait to get home and post about this! And really attack that manuscript, of course- I’ve been letting it slide. But now I’m inspired! After an afternoon of art and culture, I want to start writing! I’m gonna give myself a bit of downtime to kick my feet up (walked a lot today, and the new boots are killing me), and then I’ll be ready to blow the Atlantic’s mind!
Drinks with Lisa and the girls at that swanky new bar. Michelle and Jen drank cosmos- so cliché. I’m a sophisticated intellectual- Old Fashioneds for me.
New dress is killing me, ugh. Was worth it though- a bargain at $75. It’s so nice to know that rent is taken care of, and to allow myself a treat or two. Good for me for picking up a couple of extra shifts. Why not, I’ve got the time. I’m buzzing when I get home, and take off my dress. Such a relief- I toss it across my new desk, unburdened. It looks so pretty. One of the roomies fell asleep with the TV on, I can hear it. Didn’t have better plans, I guess. I go to bed without a worry for the first time in as long as I can remember. Sometimes, you just have to give yourself permission, you know?
Rent’s due tomorrow, but I’m covered. There’s a nagging feeling, but I’m sure that’s just habitual. I’ll be okay for June. Although I can’t shake the feeling like there was something else I was supposed to do today. What was it? Dry clean my dress? Polish my boots? Make plans with Lisa and Jen? May 30th, May 30th… Oh well, if it was important, I wouldn’t have forgotten, right? Maybe it’s just that I have a day off with nothing planned, nothing pressing, nothing to do.
Let’s go see what’s on TV.