First of all, the woman pronounced “Montpelier” as if she was speaking French, which she wasn’t, so I was confused.
She, apparently, had cornered a fellow guest at the Econolodge to carry her luggage down to the van for her. She cited this as evidence that there were still kind people in the world. Even though, she clarified, most were “just miserable.” She bought Gorilla tape, which was “really something sturdy and wonderful” to secure her suitcase, but now that she was on the train, she worried that she wouldn’t be able to cut through the tape once she got through to the Marriot. I wondered if she was prepared for the adhesive to stick to the luggage fabric. She sounded like the kind of person with nice luggage. And what was she packing that required Gorilla tape to hold it together? My dad introduced me to Gorilla tape as a fourth grader working on the school play. I mistakenly used Gorilla tape instead of gaff tape. This was, he had taught me, a serious error. A person needs to be able to identify their tapes.
She should have put her toiletries in her handbag. That way, she explained, she’d be able to get at them even if she couldn’t get through the Gorilla tape. Yes, she could probably borrow a pair of scissors at the Marriot, but it wasn’t one of those places where you could put dirty clothes out and have a valet wash and return them. Inferring, I guess, that the scissors might be a challenge to acquire and/or dull.
She sat behind me on the train and had a twenty minute phone conversation with someone who was more listener than contributor. She wasn’t that loud, but she had a clear voice that carried without much effort. I was on my way home after visiting my parents in Vermont. S. was waiting for me, as was my manuscript, and all my obsessive rituals that I miss so much whenever I’m away: the coffee with the milk that doesn’t upset my stomach, the way I can slide out of bed and land directly in front of my computer and begin working, our shower’s water pressure and the way I know how to get exactly the right temperature.
But I’d hiked down to the waterfall with my dad when we had to carry the dog over the rocks because he got too nervous. I’d fed the Rainbow Trout in the pond and watched as they’d swum right up to my feet, most over ten inches long. We’d scared the “asshole heron” as we walked through the woods and gotten creamies (AKA soft serve) from Will’s Store, which also sells DVDs, worms for bait, marshmallow fluff, and lotto tickets (they also had two onions on the produce shelf).
Here’s a list of the train woman’s complaints:
-Other women taking the front seat in the van to the train station. “Why did they think that they deserved such a desirable position?”
-The weight of her luggage
-Price of food at the Marriot: “Three artistically arranged leaves of butter lettuce for $18 and a filet mignon embedded with Himalayan sea salt,” also, inexplicably, $18, which seemed to be the most expensive price she could imagine for food.
I started eavesdropping because, I gleaned, she had been at a writing workshop of some kind. She mentioned that she’d had more time to present to agents than she had at La Jolla, but that it was inconvenient to travel to wherever this residency was located. But other than those small details, her focus stayed on the inconveniences of her trip.
My parents didn’t ask me too much about my job when I was there, but they encourage a lack of desire to pursue an MFA. My sister’s in medical school, and it doesn’t make sense to go into a similar kind of debt for Creative Writing. When I was a little girl, my stepmom used to joke that I should have been named “Patience” to serve as a reminder for me.
I went on two three mile runs while I was there, running the same loop I ran when I was on the cross country team in middle school. I was faster then, but not by much, which surprised me because my right knee’s been bothering me. I guess there’s something about running along the maple sugar lines, past the Orr farm, and down the dirt road where the town garage is that makes me want to move faster, to progress further, and not disappoint the girl who left Vermont for New York City over ten years ago to become a writer.