Crush on You

Saturday! I am having dinner with a friend this evening, who’s in town for the ALA (American Library Association) convention; someone I don’t get to see with the level of frequency I would prefer, so am very excited to spend the evening discussing the genre and books and maybe just a little hint of gossip. Huzzah!

I cleaned the house yesterday when I got home; the big macro clean; hopefully today, around writing and editing, I’ll get to do the micro clean (macro: picking everything up, cleaning counters, putting dishes away, doing bed linens; micro: sweeping and mopping and cleaning dust off picture frames and reorganizing cabinets, etc.). I slept deeply and well last night also; I woke up this morning around nine feeling foggy and not quite there awake yet; I am about to brew my second cup of coffee but I feel wildly awake and motivated…we shall see how long that lasts.

Today I want to focus on working on the Scotty book as well as read the WIP’s first four chapters aloud. My deadline for finishing the Scotty is next Saturday; I have essentially eight days to write six chapters. I also have to wrap up a ridiculous amount of plot and subplots in six chapters, but it is something I think I can do. After all, the first draft is always going to be a mess, isn’t it? And then I can work on cleaning up that mess when I work on the second draft. I do project it being finished by the end of September and turned into my publisher at that time.

As we progress into my next story in Promises in Every Star, we come on to “Angels Don’t Fall in Love”:

“Angel…..”

I wake up in the middle of the night whispering his name. When my alarm goes off at seven in the morning, for that brief instant I imagine that he is there with me in the bed, that he never left, that his warm body is lying there next to me, and when I open my eyes his round liquid brown eyes will be looking into mine with that curious sexy mixture of innocence and awareness. But my eyes open, as they do every morning, to see the other side of the bed empty, a vast desolate waste of cotton sheets and woolen blankets. My heart sinks again, down into that blackness, the darkness of despair, loneliness, and missed opportunity. For I have known love, I have known passion, I have known joy.

And lost it.

I first laid eyes on Angel one night wandering home from the bars at about two in the morning. I’d had more than my fair share of drinks that night, and was giving up and going home. Staying out didn’t mean meeting the man of my dreams, or even just a warm body with a forgettable name for the night. It just meant more alcohol, more disappointment, standing alone in a corner of the bar, not approaching anyone, nobody approaching me. Before going out that night I’d made a promise to myself that I would break the cycle. I would not stay out ordering more drinks thinking that maybe in five minutes the right guy would walk in. The drinks would only cloud my judgment and distort the way guys looked, making them look far better than they would in the cold light of morning, when I would ask myself, what were you thinking? It was a tired old game, and one I didn’t feel like playing anymore.

He was standing, leaning against a lamppost on Royal Street just a block from my apartment. He was smoking a cigarette dangling from his lower lip. His hair was that dark shade of black that looks blue in the light. There was a mustache and goatee, and he was wearing one of those white ribbed tank tops that cling. His jeans were several sizes too big and were slung low across his hips, exposing black boxer shorts. There was a tattoo on his right arm, a cross in outline with beams of light radiating from it. In the flickering light of the gaslit lamp he seemed to be a large presence, but when I got closer I saw that he was maybe five five, five six possibly. His eyes were amazing, round liquid pools of brown with golden flecks in them, like the sad eyes of a Madonna in a renaissance painting by a forgotten master. They were framed by long, curling lashes that looked dewy in the light.

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Again I don’t remember which anthology I originally wrote this story for, but I reprinted it in my Todd Gregory anthology Wings,  and again, of course, in Promises in Every Star. “Angels” was inspired by an old ’til Tuesday song, “Angels Never Call.” I happened to be listening to the Welcome Home CD when it cued up, and as I listened to it, the image of a man coming home after an evening in the gay bars of the Quarter came to me, encountering a young man named Angel, and the story just progressed from there. It was the first, or at least one of the first, erotica stories I wrote that had an edge of the supernatural to it; was Angel just an attractive young Latino male, or was he actually an angel? It was around this time that I found myself exploring themes in my erotic short fiction, and including supernatural elements, turning the erotica into stories with sex scenes in them. “Angels Don’t Fall in Love” was about, as so many stories I’ve written are, about loneliness and needing to make a connection with another human being. It’s a theme I’ve returned to over and over again, and probably will continue to do so.

And now, back to the spice mines.

Two of Hearts

FRIDAY! Huzzah!

It’s my short day, which is always a lovely way to roll into the weekend, and then I only have one more full week before my next two-day week and six day vacation! Woo-hoo!

I managed to write three thousand words, which is all of Chapter 19, yesterday; I also had miscounted. I still have six chapters to go, alas, but that is doable before the end of the month. The manuscript is a completely sloppy mess, of course, but one that should be easy to fix, to trim, to revise and edit and rewrite. I am hoping to get it into decent shape by the end of September. Huzzah!

I also decided yesterday that “Children of the Stone Circle” isn’t the right story I want to submit to this call. I am going to revisit “The Arm,” which I think is probably more consistent of a story and more believable, would work better in a revision, and so I am going to give it a try this weekend and see what happens with it.

Right now I am hating everything I’ve written. Some things never change.

Next up in my erotic short story collection Promises in Every Star was “All the World’s A Stage.” This one was also written for an anthology, and again, I don’t remember which one or who the editor was or what publisher. I should probably keep better track of this stuff, don’t you think?

The dance floor was still crowded with shirtless boys, sweat running down smooth muscled torsos. My friends had moved on across the street to Oz, leaving me alone on the dance floor enjoying my Ecstasy high and the charms of a guy in his late twenties with the body of an underwear model and the face of an angel. His ass was round and hard in his jeans, and he kept grinding it into my crotch with the beat of the music. He had a tattoo on his lower back, a fleur-de-lis, symbol of the New Orleans Saints. Every time he would back into me that way my dick would get hard in my jean shorts. I wasn’t sure if he actually wanted me to fuck him or not. You never can be sure of anything at a circuit party. His flirting could be entirely based in whatever mind altering substance he’d imbibed. He could have a boyfriend. He might just enjoy losing himself on the dance floor and flirting, in getting attention from men he thought were hot. It was flattering, for sure, since I am now in my late forties, and I had always been brainwashed into thinking that gay life—and most assuredly gay sex and desire—ended at forty.

And if this boy fucked the way he danced, well, it would definitely be worth my while.

He backed into me again, and I slid my arms around his waist, pulling him back against me. His body was wet with sweat, his jeans damp to the touch, his short blonde hair glistening in the flickering laser lights. My cock hardened again, and I ground my crotch into the back of his jeans, rubbing it against him. He suddenly spun around so that our crotches were together. I could feel his hard on against mine. He pressed his lips against mine, forcing mine apart with his tongue. I sucked on his tongue when it entered my mouth, reaching down to cup that pretty ass with my hands.

 “Mmmmmm.” He smiled as he pulled his head back from mine. He put both of his hands on my pecs, squeezing a little bit. “Very nice.”

I smiled back at him. “I could say the same.”

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“All the World’s a Stage” is one of those bar/partying stories, and it is sort of based in reality; although it was kind of a combination of two different events. First of all, yes, once at Southern Decadence a hot younger guy was flirting with me on the dance floor and yes, he did at one point call me daddy, which was the first time that ever happened, and yes, I did get pulled up on stage to mess around with two porn stars by a drag queen. But the getting pulled up on stage and the night I was called a daddy for the first time were, in fact, different occasions; but realistically, in creating the fiction of the story, it simply made sense for the narrative to combine those two incidents.

I’m pleased with it. I think I captured the feel of being drugged out and blissful on the dance floor; that tribal sense I used to get whenever I was one of a crowd of shirtless, sweaty gay men dancing. I loved to dance; always did, and hitting the dance floor was always one of my favorite things to do for years.

I do miss dancing sometimes; I miss that feel of the loud music and the sweat and the shirts being tucked into the back of your jeans (and still losing it sometimes) and sweat rolling down your body and the flashing lights and the fog and everyone lost in joyful abandon…

And now back to the spice mines.

Walk of Life

Thursday, and a bit reflective this morning. I’m not as well-rested as I was yesterday, but still feel pretty good this morning. I’m also only on my second cup of coffee, so there’s also that.

June continues to slip through my fingers; only nine days left for me to finish the first draft of the Scotty book and finish writing two short stories. This weekend I also have to put together the copy edits for Florida Happens, and I have to do a final pass on another short story. But…the more I have to do, the busier I am, the more I seem to get done. (Which is sort of obvious; if you have less to do, you are obviously not going to do as much as you will when you have more to do. But what I mean is the more I have to do, the less likely I am to procrastinate or put something off because I have plenty of time.) I also want to read aloud the first four chapters of the WIP, and I also need to start copy-editing Jackson Square Jazz.

I have, however, requested off a very long weekend around July 4th; I will be off from the 4th thru the 10th, and that should help immeasurably with everything–especially cleaning the house. In other exciting news, today I found the image I want to use for the cover of “Never Kiss a Stranger,” once it’s finished, edited and ready to be a Kindle single. That’s one of the lovely things about living in New Orleans–it’s very easy  to take a gorgeous photo here.

I did go ahead and reread “Tell Me a Lie” last night.

The music is loud, almost at eardrum-bleeding levels. A thin veil of smoke hovers just above the heads of the people in the bar. A muscle man in a red bikini shakes his ass on the other side of the bar, coaxing dollar bills from the gaggle of older men gathered at his feet. I watch him for a moment. It is truly a wondrous ass, hard and round and perched atop two well defined thick legs. There is a tattoo on his lower back just above the red stretch fabric but in the glow of the black lights I can’t make out what it is. It doesn’t matter. He’s a terrible dancer, probably gay for pay like so many of them are, and who has time for that kind of nonsense? The body is remarkable, but there are a lot of guys in the place just as hot as he is, who won’t require cash up front for a fuck. Maybe I should have just stayed home and gone on-line, I think to myself. I’ve been here for almost an hour and no one’s even looked at me twice.  I look at my watch. Another half hour and I’m out of here. Home to my empty apartment and the glow of the computer screen as I cruise manhunt.com and hope someone even half-way decent messages me. But I don’t want that again, the wait for them to knock on my door and the enormous disappointment when I see that their picture was at least ten years out of date, or they haven’t been to the gym in a couple of years, or any number of things…that’s why I prefer going to bars to find someone. At least in a bar you can see what you’re getting and you don’t have to experience that awkward moment when they are standing on your doorstep and you have to resist the urge to slam the door in their face, that horrible split second of resignation of a live body’s better than jacking off to porn again.

I sip my beer, and I see a guy walk around the corner. I’ve seen him before, over the years. Desire rises in my heart and groin. I’ve always wanted him, but he was always with a guy who protectively always seemed to stick close to him—or been part of a group with no apparent interest in hooking up with anyone. He’s beautiful. He’s about six foot tall or thereabouts, with dark hair he cuts short and hides beneath a baseball cap—tonight it’s an LSU cap. He has the thickly muscled body of a football player, and always wears T-shirts and tight jeans. Tonight is no exception. His face is gorgeous, with wide blue eyes and tanned skin—there’s probably some Cajun in his background. I’ve cruised the contact sites looking for him before, with no luck. He’s either faceless in his profiles or just not on-line looking for Mr. Right Now.  I watch as he walks up to the bar directly across from me, ignoring the stripper gyrating near where is standing.

Our eyes meet, and he smiles at me. He has a beautiful smile, the kind I’d like to see in the morning when I wake him with a kiss on the neck.

It’s been a long time since I went into a gay bar, to drink and relax and have fun; even longer since I went into a gay bar looking to get laid with either someone I’d slept with before or someone new. That part of my life, and that lifestyle, is so far off my radar now that it never even crosses my mind to think about going out clubbing. I am fifty-six, soon to be fifty-seven, and while I  certainly don’t want to age myself or think of myself as old…I do feel that I’ve sort of grown out of that now.  I don’t think of it as being sad; I’m not sad about it. I certainly spent my fair share of time in gay bars.

When I talk about stories I’ve written and published, it’s not always easy for me to remember where the idea came from; in this case, I don’t even remember where the story was originally published, but I know I wrote it for an anthology; whether it was for one of mine or someone else’s, I do not recall. But rereading this one…I actually remembered the original idea; I was at the Pub one night, standing in a corner drinking a Bud Lite long neck, as I did, in a tank top and jeans. I hadn’t moved to New Orleans yet, nor had I met Paul. I was here for the weekend, visiting, and I ran into someone–someone gorgeous–that I’d slept with on a previous trip. He’d told me his name was something, I don’t remember what–he’d asked me where I was from and I’d said Tampa, so being a tourist I suppose meant giving me a fake name–but someone else I knew was there, and wound up introducing us; which is when I found out he’d given me a fake name. He was terribly embarrassed; I just laughed and said not to worry about it because it really didn’t matter.

On the flight back to Tampa the next morning I wrote a brief description of a story in my journal; about meeting someone and hooking up with someone in a bar who gives you a fake name and you know he’s lying to you but you don’t care. About five years later I started writing the story–the first draft was terrible, and it didn’t work–and then I remembered the story years later for this anthology (I wish I could remember which one) and started over. I tried to capture that prowling, on the hunt feeling you get when you go out looking to get laid, to have fun. I thought I did a pretty good job, frankly.

I actually used to run into that guy a lot after we moved here, and we became friends. He moved away about ten years ago; we always chatted and laughed and hung out for a while when we ran into each other.

I never asked him why he gave me a fake name that first time; I now kind of wish I had.

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No One Is To Blame

Writing has always been my salvation.

That may seem melodramatic, but it’s true. As long as I can remember, no matter what was going on in my life, the dream was always there and after I actually became a writer, it’s been the foundation of my life. The business drives me crazy, but the writing itself keeps me sane. When the rest of my life or the world seems to have gone mad, I can always escape anything and everything by immersing myself in writing or reading. No matter what else was going on my life or my world, I could always escape by either reading a book or getting out a journal and writing. Whenever I had a bad day at a job or some kind of personal-life conflict, I would always think to myself, one day I will be a writer and none of this will matter anymore.

That got me through more hard times than I care to remember, honestly.

Which is why, of course, the weird duality of being a writer/writing fascinates me so much. I actually love being a writer, and most of the time I love writing, but it can be enormously frustrating at the same time. No matter how much I love to write, how much I enjoy actually doing it, no matter how much of my real identity is wrapped up in being a writer–I dread doing it every day and have to actually force myself to do it. Today I need to write a chapter of the Scotty book (at least one) and I need to work on two of my short stories; one has a bigger priority than the other, of course, but we’ll see if I even get to them. I intended to write yesterday, but after running errands and doing all of that I was exhausted, which is also concerning: why am I so easily exhausted, and what has happened to all of my energy? I spent the rest of the day in my easy chair, watching Evil Genius on Netflix and getting caught up on Animal Kingdom (which, in Season 3, I’m not enjoying as much as I was in earlier seasons), and then wasted some more time I should have spent cleaning or doing something productive. But I also need at least one day a week where I don’t really use my brain too much, and even so, as I sit there watching television my mind does tend to wander a bit, and I wind up working out puzzles and problems that I’m encountering in my work.

I had another story rejected yesterday, and I consider it a badge of honor that I no longer get my feelings hurt or react in disappointment or in other rage-y ways to rejections. One, it’s always lovely to receive a direct email rejection from the editor herself when they have a system where you can actually go look and see if your story was rejected; so a personal note from the editor is always appreciated. And as I have mentioned before,  my short stories are crime-related but not mysteries per se; so it’s not really a surprise when they get rejected from mystery markets; the surprise comes when they are actually taken. But never fear, I shall keep writing them, if for no other reason than I enjoy doing so…but I am also very well aware that my writing, and the limited time I have available for writing, should be spent working on things that should make me money.

That’s the other dichotomy of being a writer; writing what you want to write vs. writing things that make you money. I am a firm believer in the axiom you must always pay the writer, and yet many times I’ve written things I haven’t gotten paid for, that I knew up front I wasn’t getting paid for (this is an entirely different thing than writing something you are promised payment for but never actually receive the proffered payment for; that’s fraud) because it was something I either wanted to write or because it meant sharing the table of contents with writers I deeply admire, hoping that sharing the pages of an anthology or magazine or whatever-it-was with those writers would somehow end up with some of their luster and stardust rubbing off somehow on me.

I reflected on this a lot this past week as I wrote my afterward to Survivor’s Guilt and Other Stories; some of those stories I never received payment for, or was paid so little for them that the money was merely a token of appreciation rather than something I could get excited about receiving; there’s a significant difference between getting ten or fifteen dollars for a story and getting fifty to a hundred (or more). As I said in that afterward, no one gets rich writing short stories. (Well, maybe Joyce Carol Oates makes money doing it, and names on that level. Those of us on my level of success? Not so much.)

So, on that note, I am about to put on my miner’s hat and head into the spice mines for the day. Have a lovely day, everyone.

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Dancing on the Ceiling

So, yesterday I managed to finish the afterward to the short story collection; worked on “Never Kiss a Stranger” a little bit (also figured out the rest of the story, crucial!); decided on the story I am going to revise/rewrite to submit to Cemetery Dance; did some thinking about the Scotty book and where to go with it next; and continued the copy editing of Bourbon Street Blues.  I am about a quarter of the way through with this; hoping to have it finished by the end of the month so I can get the ebook/print-on-demand up before the end of summer. The book has been too long out of print, and by the way, I fucking love the new cover I got for it and the new one for Jackson Square Jazz.

I’m having some seriously terrific luck with covers this year, methinks.

So, I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked this weekend but again, progress, which is everything. As long as I am moving forward, I celebrate the win because staying in place is a loss.

Last night, I started watching the new Ryan Murphy series, Pose, and was most impressed with it. I still have not watched the Versace season of American Crime Story, but that’s on my ‘to-watch’ list. The thing with Murphy is that his series are so frequently hit-and-miss. Often they start out fantastic (Glee, Nip/Tuck) and then go south; the uneven quality of pretty much every season of American Horror Story is legendary. So, I am not holding out much hope that Pose won’t derail; but at the moment it’s high-quality, riveting television; taking us back to those awful days of the late 1980’s and shining a spotlight on queers of color, which doesn’t happen very often–and especially, the transwomen and drag queens, who rarely get to see themselves on television or in the movies. Having the show set during the height of the HIV/AIDS crisis was also a brilliant move; there was, I think, a tendency in the late 90’s and ever since, for queer publishing to shy away from HIV/AIDS; it enveloped so much of queer writing for so long…and I’m thinking that it might be time for us to start addressing it again.

HIV/AIDS plays a part in “Never Kiss a Stranger” and in “The Feast of St. Expedite” (the story I started writing last week); both are set in New Orleans in 1994 and you simply can’t write about gay men and the gay male community in that time and not have it be a part of the story in some way. The question of whether I am handling it properly or not remains to be seen…but I’ve been spending a lot of time in the past lately, and it’s been kind of fun.

I had gotten tired of most of my iTunes playlists last week and then remembered, duh, the new car has an actual CD player in it; you can listen to some of your CD’s. This thought led me to browsing through our CD tower–yes, we still have one, and yes, it’s covered in dust–and discovering a lot of great music that I don’t have in digital form and haven’t listened to in a long time. I found a lot of dance music mix CD’s, including Deborah Cox: The Remixes and so every time I get in my car I’ve been listening to old gay dance music. I even was playing some of them while I was cleaning the house on Sunday (the only CD players in the house are in the computers), and yes, I’d forgotten how much easier dance music makes cleaning (note to self: always play dance CD’s in the computer when cleaning).

In the car this morning I was listening to a Pride 2001 CD, and a song come on called “Movin’ Up” (I think) and without even realizing it I was singing along with it and this lyric popped up: I take my problems to the dance floor. and I was flooded with memories. I remember someone in the bars back then had a T-shirt that said this, and although I don’t remember his name, he was around a lot back in those days and he always had a great time on the dance floor; and I enjoyed watching the joy and sheer abandon with which he danced.

I do kind of miss dancing.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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Venus

My sleep patterns are so messed up. I woke up this morning (several times) before eight (the first time was at three) before finally getting up around seven thirty. This is the first time I’ve gotten up early on my own without an alarm in weeks, maybe even months. I’ve been sleeping later and later every morning, but lately, if I don’t set an alarm I seem to not wake up until sometime between nine-thirty and ten; which is a lot of sleep. I’m not complaining, mind you–the sleep is restful and good when it comes–but at the same time I hate that I always mentally default to oh, I’ve wasted my entire morning in bed.

Sleep is never a waste; nor is my morning wasted because I didn’t get up until almost ten.

And yet this morning, my Sunday this week, I somehow managed to wake up early. Let’s see how much I can get done this morning, shall we? I’d like to get back to the gym today, try to reestablish that workout pattern I slipped so easily out of a few months back. Those months of regular workouts for naught now; I have to start over again and try to get back into the swing of regular workouts before trying to start pushing myself and trying to burn off the fat and gain some additional muscle. I’ve been very dissatisfied now (for years) with how my body shape has changed; and if I don’t start doing something about it soon it might become more permanent; and above all else, it’s not healthy.

And healthy has to be the primary motivating factor now, not appearance.

I did finish reading Philip Roth’s When She Was Good this past weekend, Constant Reader.

I didn’t love it. It’s one of his early novels, like Letting Go, which I also didn’t care for, and am now wondering if I should actually try to read one of his later novels. I am giving him more chances than I usually give an author, but I also do think it’s kind of unfair to judge an author solely based on early works. When She Was Good is about small-town morality and small-town mentality; set in some ambiguous Midwestern state in the small town of Liberty Center (just across the river from the bigger city of Winnisaw), it focuses on the tragedy of young Lucy Nelson, whose life and world views are shaped by being the daughter of an alcoholic failure. The end result is she sets impossibly high standards of success vs. failure, of morality vs. immorality, and she makes people miserable. Her big failure is getting pregnant while in college (which she takes no responsibility for her part in) and proceeds to make her husband miserable. The whole book is about responsibility; and it’s not a terribly exciting read. Lucy is awful but so is her husband and his family; if anything, the book serves as a commentary on the phoniness of small town values, like Peyton Place; the primary difference between the two being Roth’s novel is smaller in scope while Metalious’ has a plot and characters you care about and you want to know what happens to them.

And now, back to the spice mines.

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When The Going Gets Tough (The Tough Get Going)

Monday morning, and a long week ahead of me. Gay Pride is Saturday, so I will be testing in the Carevan all day–but at least I can take Monday off, which is lovely.

Yesterday I didn’t get as much done as I would have liked–I had a technology problem that wasted a couple of hours and then I had to calm down from being so enraged, which was hardly the right frame of mind in which to work–but I did wind up correcting the fourth chapter of the WIP (which I can now polish) and I also started the copy edit of Bourbon Street Blues, which I did by reading it out loud (it’s amazing what a difference this can make!). I also brainstormed a bit on some short stories–I was asked to write another one yesterday, which was absolutely lovely, and the pay is spectacular–and read a little bit of the Philip Roth, which I still haven’t finished. I really should either sit down and force myself to read it until it’s done or put it aside.

See, that’s my problem with Roth, and with most literary writers (I said most, don’t come for me); there’s never a sense of urgency with their works. Yes, the writing is beautiful, and yes, the characters are painstakingly rendered…but I don’t care enough about them to feel a sense of urgency to find out what happens to them. Given how much grief women crime writers get about writing unsympathetic characters, I find it astounding that no one ever asks literary writers about their unpleasant characters and if they aren’t afraid of losing their readers and so forth, the way women crime writers are.

Case in point: Lucy, the main character of When She Was Good, is a good small-town girl with all the morals and principles and so forth…and it’s perfectly plain that, as a woman of her time, she’s destined to be perfectly miserable with her life and disappointed and bitter about the choices she’s had to make.  As I said, she’s very real, her problems are very real, and the tight constraint of the society she lives in upon women is very real, and it’s all incredibly beautifully written.

But…I am not driven to pick it up every day to find out what happens.

I’m sure that’s a failure of my intellect.

Ah, well.

Here’s the opening of my story “The Silky Veils of Ardor,” which will appear in The Beat of Black Wings, probably next year, edited by Josh Pachter:

The elevator doors opened. Cautiously, her heart thumping in her ears, she walked out of the elevator into the hotel lobby and paused, taking a quick look around. Over at the front desk the young woman in uniform was checking in a couple. They didn’t look familiar. But it had been so long since she’d seen any of them…would she recognize anyone?

She didn’t notice she’d been holding her breath.

She walked across the lobby to the hotel bar entrance. A reader board just outside said WELCOME BACK BAYVIEW HIGH CLASS OF 1992!

The black background was faded, the white plastic letters yellowed with age.

The urge to just head back to the elevators and punch at the up button until the doors opened, get upstairs and run to her room and repack all the clothes into her suitcases, everything she’d just carefully put away neatly in drawers and hung in the closet, was strong. She resisted, recognized the need as irrational, closed her eyes, clenched her hands until she felt her ragged bitten nails digging into her palms.

You can do this you can do this you can do this you can do this.

There was a dull murmur coming from inside the hotel bar, laughter and talking, the rattling of ice against glass, the occasional whir of a blender.  From where she stood she could see the bar was crowded, cocktail waitresses in too-short black skirts and white blouses maneuvering expertly around groups of people with trays balanced on one hand.

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And now back to the spice mines.