What's Your Process?
The next woman was full hipped and bespectacled with a mop of cherry red hair and a big smile. She came up to the microphone holding the new book and her demeanor was that of someone seldom impressed but entirely earnest when enthused. She asked a question in the way that people do when they’re not used to public speaking. It was the question Tim Weatherly knew she would ask.
“Can you tell me about your process?”
Tim smiled and folded his hands.
He pulled up and rolled the window of the rental down. She approached, her heels clicking on the payment.
“Yeah, go down the block and take a left at the Walgreens down there. There’s a lot not far. Wait for me there.”
He nodded his head and she stepped away as the windows rolled up.
He drove down the block and into the vacant lot. He gauged the trip would take about five minute, less if she took off the heels, and settle back into the support of the seat as the heater blew warm air into the space between his knees. Tim felt the urge to close his eyes. The book tour was just revving up but he had gone into it tired.
Early reviews were coming in as drips and drabs. The Philadelphia Sun Times were generous. They called The Feeler “Excellent” dot dot dot “A riveting read”. The Literary Review gave him a solid write up. “Sharp, smart and witty” dot dot dot “A real heartbreaker” He could see the adcopy for the paperback in his mind and somewhere in the type he imagined Britney Walsh of the New Yorker’s lancing him. “Tepid” dot dot dot “Melodramatic”. The worst thing she called it was “Boring” which really hurt.
Tim liked to think of himself as the kind of writer that didn’t give a shit, but it always interested him to gauge other’s impressions, to see what “landed” and what “didn’t”. He thought himself a broadcaster, sending out the bad signal to every receiver that could pick it up. Sometimes, he came in crystal clear. Sometimes, his voice was lost to snow. It paid to see who caught what and who didn’t, so he knew what interview queries to have Angela, his publicist, ignore.
A knock woke him up. His head snapped back up and for a moment he did not know where he was. She was smiling thorough the glass, her voice muffled as she said “You asleep, baby?” thorough the window.
He rolled down the glass.
“I’m a little worn out.”
“Heh. Well…” She held out her hand.
He had a small tight wad of twenties and fifties in his pocket. He scrimped off about half (a trick he learned back in Detroit) and passed it to her. She dipped the cash into the middle of her halter top and walked around the front of the car to the passenger side. The halogen lights bathed her white skin, making her glow. He unlocked the passenger side door and she hopped into the rental.
“So, where’s this happening? Right here or…”
“I have a motel not far. We can do it there…” He looked at her. “Anything you don’t do?”
“Just anal. Also, no shit stuff. No vomiting, no pissing. None of that.”
“Yeah, as long as it’s none of that kind of stuff, than we’re good.”
She strapped on her seat belt and he put the car into reverse, then he shifted the car into drive.
“You have anything in mind.”
“Yeah.” He said, turning into the street. “I have something in mind.”
“So you travel?” She asked as they stopped at the light. She seemed curious in a polite and indifferent way.
“I’m doing a book tour.”
“Oooh. A writer. What do you write?”
“Oh you know…this and that. Stories. Mostly about people.”
She shoved off her heels and put it between the seats.
“Well, that’s interesting. I used to write a little bit when I was in the shelter. You know, personal stuff and whatever. It was really therapeutic.”
“Yeah, it is. You must have a lot to write about.”
“Heh. If I told you some stories, you wouldn’t believe me.”
There is a moment looking at her as the light shifts from red to green that he doesn’t believe it. She’s small and her face is full, her skin is fair and unblemished. Her hair is a dark blond, matted by clean. Her halter rides down and her mini-skirt cuts into her hips, revealing the supple legs pitted with cellulite but still appeasing. She looked real, like a person. A real human person.
“Is it rough out here?” He said. She put her feet up on the seat and hugged her knees to her chest.
“In this city? Nah, not really. I mean yeah there’s trouble but I’m good at avoiding it.”
“How long have you been out here?”
“Few years. Long enough to know my ass from a hole in the ground, that’s for sure. You should see some of these girls. Green as goose shit and smell just as nice. They don’t know how to take care of themselves?”
This beggared the question “Do you got someone to take care of you or…”
“You mean ‘where’s your pimp?’” And the way she said it made his face flush. She chuckled and pinched her cheeks. Her skin was soft under her thumb. She smiled and put her legs up on the dash.
“I don’t have one anymore. His stupid ass got locked up for some stupid shit. Been trying to get this money before he gets back. Be out of here before November of next year. So you don’t have to get worried about getting your ass kicked if I don’t like you.”
“You say that like I’m not a tough guy.” He said and gave her a slick smile.
“Whatever you say, writer man.”
They drove on. There weren’t far from the motel. He could see it now, coming up from the right, the big neon sign that demarcated it the SEAVIEW MOTEL. The missing “O” and missing “E” of “Motel” turned the ratty tenement it into the SAVIW MOTL. His mouth tightened against the smile growing on his face. He looked at her. Her lips laid flat above her chin. Her head was canted against the glass as she looked out.
She didn’t know, he thought. She couldn’t understand. She had never came across it. She wouldn’t be familiar with it if she saw it.
He pulled up to the drive. “We’re here.” He said.
The typewriter was a Magnetic Card Selectric Composer produced in 1978 after seven years of development by IBM. It came in a sturdy hard plastic traveling case and currently it sat alone on the desk in the motel room.
They came in. She passed the typewriter with a momentary glance and walked closer to the drawer.
“Okay, so.” She began to take off her shoes after walking. “Do you have a condom?”
He pointed to the drawer and dropped his key on the nightstand next to the bed.
She took off her other shoe and dropped it in th corner. She came over to where he pointed and was taking condom out of the drawer when he came up behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. He kissed her neck and her hand came up the back of his head and he rubbed his hair playfully. She didn’t giggle but the closeness didn’t make her uncomfortable. She was a prostitute, but unlike more girls on the strip she was also a people person. She wasn’t terrified of intimacy, but she was a business woman and she needed to set boundaries.
She pushed him off with a shrug and turned. “No kissing, no hugging, okay? Just tell me what you want.”
He didn’t seem hurt. He dropped his hands.
“I think I want to take a shower with you.”
“That it? Or…” She took the condom packet out of the drawer and drew it to her lips. She made a small nick with her teeth and ripped it open.
“You want to clean me up? It’s extra.”
“I’ll pay. Just get in the shower.”
She smiled and turned, tugging on her clothes as she walked across the room. What she did as she walked over: She zipped down the halter and slides it up, pulling it over her head. She pushes the skirt down and stepped over it. Her cute butt wiggled as she moved. She wrapped her hand around the knob and opened the door.
“Alright, let’s go get clean.”
She stepped into the room where plastic covered everything. Behind the door and over the sink laid plastic sheeting. The shower curtain had been removed and more plastic sheeting tarped the porcelain. She turned just a little inside the door and she jumped back startled. He had crossed the room without a sound and stood behind her.
“ What’s the plastic for?” She asked but he didn’t answer. He just pushed her in and closed the door.
“Good.” He said. “That’s works out well.”
When he was done, he wrapped a towel around his waist and walked out. He padded across the floor barefoot. The beige carpet crunched stiffly undertow. He knelt under the bed, drawing out the small leather satchel and laying it on the top of the bed. Opening the flap, he got up and walked towards the desk.
On the desk was a stack of 8 ½ by 11 inch typing paper, held together by a thin film of plastic. Snapping the plastic, he drew a single sheet out from the stack and set it in the Magnetic Card Selectric Composer. He swept his leg around the chair and sat down.
He glanced back at the open bathroom door, where a hand laid over the side of the plastic-filled tub, its acrylic nails chipped and broken by the struggle. He turned around in his chair and he began to write.
“It’s like anything else, really.” He said. “Your process, whatever it is, is just a focus for your creativity. It breaks down to ritual really. Some writers can’t write at home. Some writers can’t write anywhere else but there desk. Some writers carry notebooks. Some writers keep it in their head. A lot of other writers, when they’re writing, stop writing and do other things. There’s a reason for that. When your mind is churning away, you might in the room but you’re not really ‘present’, you understand? You’re in yourself. So, you can be doing anything and it’s not you doing it. It’s your body, but the part of you that is actualized and aware that one is busy doing other things. You’re on auto-pilot and when you’re not worried about the external world, you’re creating an internal world. And that’s what I think it’s most important about the process.
So to answer your question…like actually answer it…it involves a lot of private ritual. And that’s as far into detail as I will go about how I get my work done.”
He finished and it seemed to satisfy her. The crowd applauded politely and the woman went up the aisle to her seat in the back of the room. Someone approached the microphone to ask another question.