We stopped for a night in Bishop, California on our way back from backpacking in the Sierras. There were a handful of chain hotels to choose from-La Quinta, Best Western-and a few local motels. We decided it would be more fun to stay at a local place.
The woman who worked the front desk lived in the unit behind it. Late thirties and 8 months pregnant, she came in behind us carrying a stack of sheets.
“You want a room?”
“Do you have one with a king size bed?”
We drove ten feet from the office to park in front of our room, Number 6, our car nearly touching the room door.
Our neighbor came out of Number 5 as we got out of the car. He lit a cigarette and cracked open his tall, silver can of Coors Light. It was 10:45 am. A woman could be heard yelling at him from inside the room. He shut the door cutting her off and sat down on the plastic chair inhaling.
Our room had wood paneling and a faded painting of a flower. The long door stopper boinged when I flicked it with my toe. Off the bedroom there was a yellow kitchenette.
Through the wall, I could hear the muffled voice of the woman still yelling at the man. Everything about the motel seemed as if a fantastic, awful scene that would be written by Sam Shepard and reenacted by Kim Basinger was about to happen. It was far from luxury, but I loved it, as I love encountering all kinds of different places.
When I was growing up, I romanticized the life of Mark Twain. I thought, “What an exciting life to work on a ship so you can explore the world and write. Maybe I can do that one day.” And that’s what I do. I support myself as a flight attendant as I explore both domestically and internationally and work on my writing in hotels, at parks and cafes, and at home.
I’m very grateful to Best American Poetry for allowing me the opportunity to be their Guest Author, and of course to Terrance Hayes who selected my poem for Best American Poetry’s current issue which brought this all together. While I can write about anything I choose, it was suggested one thing I may want to consider is the way in which my profession has shaped my writing. I’m looking forward to considering that over the next few days.