yours, tiramisu

the water is spangles off soft blue

And past all this, reddened by a round slow September sun, are mountains, jagged, their tops' sharp angles darkening into definition against a deep red tired light. Against the red their sharp connected tops form a spiked line, an EKG of the dying day.

The clouds are taking on color by the rim of the sky. The water is spangles off soft blue, five-o'clock warm, and the pool's smell, like the other smell, connects with a chemical haze inside you, an interior dimness that bends light to its own ends, softens the difference between what leaves off and what begins.

I arrived at my friend’s apartment late last night and this morning both he and another friend visiting with me went to work at the office, so I have the day to myself in his apartment.

I woke up around 7 local time after a rather fitful night of sleep on a perpetually deflating air mattress. The orchestra of leaf blowers seems to rehearse in the mornings here. They never stop working. All morning I’ve been watching them prune and spray their way around the complex as I grade papers.

Now I’m sitting by the pool with a book I found laying around my friend’s place, Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. I’ve seen it everywhere lately and many of my friends have read it already. Translated Japanese literature rarely makes it on my to-read list but having the hardcover handy helps me make an exception.

Reading by the pool is one of life’s greatest pleasures. The weather here in April is marvelous, with warm, cloudless days and cool nights. In the afternoon it gets so hot wasps and bees sit on top of the water to cool off. I’ve never seen anything like that happen before, though I can’t say I blame them. The unforgiving desert sun spares no one.

A lady in a black bikini sits on the other side of the pool, suntanning her florid skin. I always wonder what people do when I see them enjoying life without a care in the world during working hours. Are you retired? Unemployed? Freelancing? Being able to spend all the hours of the day however you please seems like the ultimate luxury. I know I should take advantage of this privilege while I have it, regardless of how it came about, but it’s hard to shake the feeling that I should really be doing something else, especially while both of my friends are at work.

I’m on page 59 right now. The story has been pretty good so far, even though it suffers the misfortune of being translated out of its original language. It’s why I don’t often reach for Japanese literature — as beautiful as it is, the language just doesn’t translate well into English. The prose contains all sorts of things I would tell my students not to do in their writing. Thankfully, the unfamiliar style doesn’t detract from the story.

That’s one of the things I struggle with in my creative writing classes. I can teach my students all the mechanics they want, like showing them how to write in active voice, identify motifs, and use poetic devices. But if they can’t come up with a good story, what good does that do them? It’s like having a professional chef’s kitchen with no food. I don’t know how to help them there—I myself have very little practical advice for how to spin a good story. I can help them build a regular writing practice and suggest new possibilities, but stories must always come from within. (Not that I have stories of my own to give away, anyway. My fiction well has always been bone dry.)

I read more slowly ever since I started teaching. I don’t mean to, but spending hours every week looking for and thinking about examples of good writing naturally means that I’ll do the same when reading too. Now I read everything far more closely and critically. What exactly is the author doing here? Does it work like they intend? How does it make me feel? How can I share this with my students? This newfound attention has brought a new dimension to my reading which I thoroughly enjoy.

I’m feeling a little light-headed, probably because I worked out without a square meal in my stomach. There’s no food to be had in the apartment, and the nearest restaurant is more than a mile of sunburn suburbia away. My friends come back around 4:30 and I think dinner tonight is late, so maybe we’ll eat something before to help me stave off my low blood sugar. Taking diabetic medication without diabetes means dealing with plummeting glucose levels and the starry dizziness they bring.

I feel a little better having written all this. The hearing is tomorrow morning and by night I’ll be in California. I still feel rather detached from it all, as if these events are happening to someone other than me. Maybe that will change when they actually happen. (One can hope!)

yours, tiramisu

#books #english #life #travel #wordvomit #writing