the first ten minutes


Yesterday a man came to check in and told me it was his birthday. It was before check-in time, but he really wanted a clean room so he could get everything ready before he went out hiking. His daughter was coming to meet him here for his birthday – his sixty-sixth. We’re having dinner tonight at the Ahwahnee he beamed at me. It’s expensive, but it’s a once-a-year treat. It made me miss my father. Later, I wrote him a card and had Daryl take it to his room. Inside, I wrote what a great place to celebrate the end of one year and the beginning of another. Happy birthday! I like that this is what is encouraged at work: gestures of kindness, genuine extensions of compassion.

Before or after that, an older man came in. It was his birthday soon too and he asked me how old I was. I said twenty-three, and he swooned over it. Enjoy it, really, enjoy this time. I told him I’m sure I worry more than I should at 23 and he said yes, yes, yes, that’s what I’m always telling my daughters. There’s no reason to be so stressed out.

Two days ago, a woman came to check in. She asked about hiking trails, and I pointed out where I like to walk on my work breaks. You really take advantage of being here, don’t you? I told her winter is hard. Her husband pulled her away seeing the line out the door, but before she left, she said when I lived in Colorado, I ran a lot, and an older woman once told me: you’re only cold for the first ten minutes. Remember that.

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It’s winter and it is quiet, cold, crisp. We had our first frost this morning. I wear long underwear under my work pants. When we use the space heaters, the fuse blows and we have to reset the bear safety video. My body is tired of beer, wine, liquor. I want warmth – hot chocolate and white mochas, French pressed coffee. I want my dog curled up next to me, my parents cooking dinner downstairs. It’s strange, always so strange, how I long for other places, people, worlds. The past, the future. The person I want to be, the life I plan to live. The choices, even the tiny ones, change the course of it all.

When I talked to Theron about my submission for Julep, I said my writing can be kind of depressing, a little hopeless. Is that okay? He replied so gracefully: we see the sense of struggle in your proposal, and it’s what we want.

Last night, arms wrapped around myself in the cold, Josh begged me to stay. What about snowshoeing? When I told him I couldn’t, he said I’ll have to get your email. We have to keep in touch. This is what I do. This is the way it goes. The forever question: what is malleable vs. what is our very core?

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You’re only cold for the first ten minutes.

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