Thursday, November 17, 2011

justwrite 17 november

Taking a new seat, this one beside the wall and facing away from the front door, Aileen begins to write.

I wish I could come up with a project that would be interesting enough to get people involved but not big enough to be impossible for me to manage or if not just me then me and one other person and I’m smiling when I write this because Vanya of course this is the person I’m thinking about and why shouldn’t I be thinking about him because that was some email am I right yes I’m right and what’s he going to write next I wonder but yeah I haven’t even written back to him yet so why would he reply to what he wrote that would be too much right I think yes but I don’t think I’d be upset about it I’m just saying like if he had something more to say that he forgot in the first note something like that then that’d be okay but when I am going to be in kyiv again anytime soon it’s not like it’s so close right I mean if I had a car it’d be one thing but maybe a train’s better anyway like for the environment and really it’s not like you can sleep in a car while still getting somewhere unless someone else is driving and it’s not like anyone else is driving me I am driving this car myself! Even though the point is that I don’t even have a car but baby you can drive my car I’d say given the chance and the right background music but to regroup. Full stop. This is what happens when I write what I think I’m surprised that I can focus ever in real life because on paper I am way out of sense and need change need an outline or something as much as structure is constricting or like iea would say boa constructing it’s tight around my throat I think it’d good sometimes right but what else can I say before getting back to the topic my tea just appeared but I’m not sure how that happened because I definitely didn’t see Rosy bring it or even the waitress if she is a waitress or the dishwasher I feel like I should give him a name but that’s too pushy isn’t it I mean I did just create him out of nothing and bring him to life from simple thoughts so maybe he ought to have a little free will or maybe that’s what his name should be like Little Free Will and it’s a joke because he’s tall oh oh! And he likes to read philosophy! And comics! It’s embarrassing how much I make myself laugh.

Aileen pauses, smiles, sips her tea. Sihydny chai z imberon. Served with milk. Mmm. Smiles again. Almost chai in the American sense, among all kinds of other varieties of chai in the Ukrainian sense.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

justwrite 16 november

Does she have a minute? Of course. It’s a publishing company. She’s an editor. Sometimes things happen fast, but generally not. She’s already spent more energy today polishing the shiny red apple of Vanya’s note than on any work-related task. Supposition, re-examination, anticipation of reply. No reply has been sent, yet, of course, nor even crafted or drafted. She wants a little time to coddle this bright shiny fruit before biting in.

Holding this apple behind her back, she feels braver, warmed by language and delight.

Outcomes of this encounter:

1. Oksana immediately asks if the offending stain is hot chocolate. She does not appear angry, but sniffs delicately, as if to indicate disdain. Or, said more directly, to directly indicate disdain.

2. A curt thank-you for the delivery on Saturday. Mention of Adrian. Aileen looks sideways at Oksana, to measure her expression, but this is extremely difficult geometry to execute when standing directly in front of her.

3. Oksana’s inquiry about Aileen’s health is unnaturally brief, for two discernible reasons.

a. Aileen’s alleged headache may have been revealed to be a scam by Adrian, and anyway, even if it was a headache, it was nothing like being so hugely pregnant.

b. Aileen’s failure to inquire after Oksana’s health is inexcusable.

4. As Aileen is leaving, Oksana offers her an apple from a old-styled new-looking ceramic bowl on the corner of her desk. “The ugliest one for you,” she says. “You should never eat the pretty apples, you know. They are full of chemicals.” She smiles insistently, then insists smilingly. “They’re from our dacha. Take two.”

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

justwrite 15 november

From Vanya, a note with the subject line “not exactly strangers on a train”. She loves this.

1. He’s familiar with Hitchcock.

2. He knows how to write an intriguing subject line.

3. He’s saying that they’re not strangers.

4. He wrote to her. At all.

Adrian set distantly aside, she reads from Vanya.

Such a pleasure to spend train time with you! Sorry for my not writing sooner, but time is slippery.

I hope your conference was productive and enjoyable and your return trip was pleasant. Maybe another traveler was lucky enough to share the trip with you?

I told my sister about meeting you and she didn’t believe that an American girl would travel alone on a Ukrainian train. I told her that you weren’t alone, you were with me. She laughed.

When you will be in Kyiv again, write me, and I will show you the city properly. We have much to talk about, you and I. I think we can create something: projects, actions, something. I remember what you said about being in Peace Corps, about inventing and reinventing your life and living toward your dreams. As for me, this is a very powerful thought, and I am thinking about it still.

Write me about your inventings, dear, and I will tell you my dreams.


Aileen wants to call someone to her desk and have them read this email. Out loud. To be sure. Dear? It’s true that Ukrainians use many terms of endearment, and dear is a very mild form, but please. And thank you. This is the email she would have written herself from Vanya. And yet, here it is. Not from Susan, even. This is real.

When Adrian comes into the office and smiles at her, she gives back a huge smile. It’s not to him, but he doesn’t know that or mind much.

Her brain is on fire and she feels like running.

Monday, November 14, 2011

justwrite 14 november

In one of the dreams there are invisible gnomes and they only become visible when they take their hats off. They do this in The Back of the nameless cafĂ©—which should probably just be called Wonderland because it’s as good a made-up name as any. Anyway it turns out in this dream that the tall lanky guy with red hair is not a dishwasher, but a wizard. Well, actually he’s both a dishwasher and a wizard. It seems that being a wizard doesn’t always pay the bills. This dream comes with a lot of backstory built in. It’s conveniently sensible. As the wizard washes the dishes he complains that there aren’t enough dishes for him to wash and he has to keep cleaning the same dishes: cups of hot chocolate and plates that used to hold cranberry cake. “There must be more to it than this,” he moans. The gnomes, unhappy at seeing their apparent leader so distressed, go out into the world in search of cups and stories. They put on their hats and vanish. Quick scene change to the Museum of Ideas. The coffee spills again. The saucer beneath it disappears, but no one notices. Eyes are distracted by the loud noise and the fuss. No one is counting, just blotting and yelping. The gnomes giggle and the dreamer sees herself at the table hearing them but not seeing them. There are other scenes but they melt. The wizard dances with the scarf lady and Dmitry Mikhailovych is perplexed. “This won’t do at all,” he says, shaking his head vigorously. He throws dishes at the wizard—with kindness, a gift, to keep him busy and to stop all this dancing in the office. The chess players can’t play and the beautiful new red-haired arrival, she of the high black boots and the equestrian style, is distracted. The distractor distracts and the contractors contract to bring in more chess players, so suddenly the center is filled with gnomes and chess pieces and when the train comes through the conductor is throwing tickets out of the window, yelling, “Join us! Stay on track! There’s no use in truth if you can’t have potatoes!” The profound message offered stays with Aileen and when she wakes up it echoes in her head until she writes it down and frees her mind: “There’s no use in truth if you can’t have potatoes!” She falls instantly asleep having written this down and dreams of sunflower fields, of living in Everything is Illuminated, but only the part with the old lady in the house in the middle of that field, washing white laundry that belonged to no one, keeping boxes of the past, ready for collectors and keepers and company. The sunflower fields that must be in the center, the south, the east, because they’re not in the west, they’re not hidden on the plains for viewing purposes. Then, for all intents and unmentionable reasons, the seasons change, and the rearrangement of the stage sends the seeds raining down, though the stalks stand tall, and little roundbacked women appear with sacks to attack the thick black collection on the ground. They gather to gather, then leave to stream out onto the sidewalks and to the corners, huddled into themselves and selling glass cups full of pocket fodder. The cold comes and the sunflowers go, the women remain, trained into stillness and immune to such tunes as the wind cries foul.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

justwrite 13 november

Time passes. Aileen edits, the hot chocolate arrives and is slowly consumed. The inevitable drop of chocolate waits until page 64 to fall. There, it lands spectacularly in the midst of a commentary on sustainability authored by a leading authority in the area of international agriculture: Malcolm Holmes. ‘A farmer out standing in his field,’ her father would have quipped.

Quick action with a tissue, a wet wipe, and some thin-lipped blowing of cool air leave only a light brown blot on the record. What does it look like? Chocolate? Coffee? Coffee seems like a more acceptable substance to have spilled, for some reason. Luckily only Oksana Dimitryvna will probably be looking at this. Still, there are many possibilities.

1. Oksana is a reasonable person, and she will understand that editing does not happen in a vacuum.

2. Oksana is prone to occasional fits of irrationality, especially since she’s been pregnant, and may take this spot as a personal affront.

3. Oksana will use this opportunity to suggest to her father, Dmitry Mikhailovych, that proofs on paper are a foolishly wasteful idea, when the whole editing and review process can be completed on the computer. She has, in fact, made this suggestion repeatedly in the time since Aileen has worked for LionPrint. Her father, perhaps overly old fashioned on some occasions and perhaps overly fond of paper on all occasions, is still the boss, and the policy has not changed. This chocolate stain, however, may provide fresh ammunition in this ongoing debate, and Dmitry Mikhailovych could come to see Aileen as a potential upstart who planted this spot on purpose—a spot plot hatched by co-consiprators against an old man hiding in his own fortified bunker constructed of paper, cartons and cartons of A4 and more. Dependent on employment for a visa, and dependent on Dmitry Mikhailovych for this visa, Aileen can ill-afford to even hypothetically bombard such a fort.

4. Aileen can white-out the spot and no one will notice the difference.

5. No one will notice the spot anyway.

Aileen waves the paper gently, still blowing on the spot, ready to assess the dry-stage damage. As if in response to this cue, a tall lanky guy with red hair appears from The Back and clears away her nearly empty cup. To be clear, most people would view this cup as empty, but Aileen sees A Great Deal of Potential in the lickable edges. She has a long tongue, and would never have waved a white flag of surrender to this unexpected arrival, this Thief Of Opportunity.