I pull into my friend’s empty parking space, off the winding ocean road with its beautiful houses. Barbara’s looks like a Rumplestiltskin house, all angles and not one window shaped like another. Her house is three rooms, one stacked atop another, with a tiny room up top, filled with ocean light, a tiny deck off to the side. The weather report names this day “brittle cold” with a high of twenty degrees.
Eager to get here, I took an extra ten minutes to locate my wool undershirt and capilene long johns, the silk sock liners, the pashmina scarf. “You may turn the heat up to sixty-five,” Barbara said, “but I prefer to keep it at fifty, most of the time.” The top floor collects sunlight like my living room window—it won’t require much heat. I haul out my laptop bag, a thermos of steaming tea, my messenger bag with its books and journals. I’ve been home with children, or out with children, for four days and this is the fifth. Two of those days I’ve suffered a sore throat, worrisome and tiresome. Scott attended a conference three of those days. All I want is this quiet.
Except the spare key is not in its place above the gas meter. I check everywhere. I return my bags to the van so I can use both hands and search with a fresh eye for the tiny blue key tag. Nothing. I try the door handle to the studio—locked. Since I’m dressed for outdoors, I throw on my thick berber coat and walk to the end of the road. It’s been so long since I walked these narrow roads I have to remind myself to walk on the left, as if I’d see any traffic. I turn and walk as far as I can go the other direction, too, with my spruce coat collar turned up to protect my ears. I remind myself I’m just getting over a cold, and as much as I’d love to walk, I came here to write. The sun is beautiful, my laptop is charged, and my due date is… well, it’s today, though I’m not getting anywhere, like I didn’t get anywhere for the last week. I think of all the places I could go to type, all noisy, all possibly crowded. And I’m dressed for the arctic.
I sit down in the minivan, start the engine and throw it in reverse, while blaring the heat. I turn around in Barbara’s driveway, and back the van in, parked to face the sun. I turn off the engine and walk around to the passenger seat to haul my gear out. I sit down and throw the spruce berber coat over my lap as a blanket. No ocean view today, no comfy chair—but those are extras, really. I fire up the laptop in my own quiet minivan studio. I should remember any minute now how to reserve power on this little computer, or maybe I’ll see if I can find this information under “help,” or maybe I’ll just keep writing, right here in the scenic-ish passenger seat of my van. I probably won’t make it for the two writing hours I allotted, but quiet and ocean light and a warm enough place—it will do. No one needs me here. It will do.