I rarely write anywhere but at my desk, which is where I write this from now. I have one desk here, in Cambridge, and one desk at my other home, in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
The history of my Newfoundland desk is almost entirely unknown to me, and that’s because I stole it. The little blue bureau of different shades had been nestled in the corner of my creative partner’s hallway for some time, before I lugged it into my bedroom without really asking and claimed it as my own. I set it up next to my bed, enamoured of the stencil work and mismatched, hand-painted glass knobs on every drawer, and I bought a plant to fill Creative Partner’s deserted corner. She didn’t kick me out, or even object, and that is one reason I am lucky.
I like to imagine Creative Partner toiling away at the desk in the nineties, writing one of her many award-winning plays at the place I now sit when I’m in St. John’s. I like to picture something of her left behind, lingering, rubbing off on me. Of course, she could just as easily have used the desk as a change table for her son, which would explain what I’ve been churning out of late.
In any case, I’m not in Newfoundland. I’m in Cambridge, at my Cambridge desk, which is stationed in front of a big window in my “writing room,” inside the home I share with my partner-partner. The writing room is actually just a living room I dubbed “the writing room” somewhat ironically, when I plunked my Cambridge desk down in the centre of it a decade ago, and neglected to move it anywhere else until it grew tendrils and became part of the floor. Boxes of books, and other miscellaneous things from my childhood that I will unpack tomorrow keep my Cambridge desk company.
“I like to imagine Creative Partner toiling away at the desk in the nineties, writing one of her many award-winning plays at the place I now sit when I’m in St. John’s. I like to picture something of her left behind, lingering, rubbing off on me.”
My Cambridge desk was gifted to me by my father, when I was in high school. It’s made of tan-coloured plasticky wood and accented by “wrought iron” black bars. I put wrought-iron in quotations, because I don’t really know what wrought-iron is, but it’s what these are in my head. My dad bought the desk from Walmart. I know this because he told me. He was proud it was on sale, and I would bet anything he still has the receipt.
The desk is very sleek and modern-looking for something manufactured in 2003. It has a little shelf close to the ground on my right, for a computer. A computer tower, I mean, and another small moveable shelf that affixes to the main part of the desk for the monitor, so that it can be raised for extra space. Right now, on the monitor shelf, I have some lip balm, a bag of Goldfish crackers, The Beauty of Humanity Movement by Camilla Gibb, a picture of my dog, and a small tube of silver glitter. There’s a keyboard-slider-thing too, about four inches beneath the desktop, upon which I keep the degree I’ve been meaning to frame for the past seven years, and a binder full of notes on the play I’m writing with Creative Partner in Newfoundland, at my Newfoundland desk.
Today, my Cambridge desk is sticky because of the wine I drank at it last night while catching up on the Wild Writer’s Festival’s “Forming First Collections” event, hosted expertly by Carrie Snyder, which I thought was fabulous. No mention from anyone of wine as a catalyst to that first book, though. Later, when I couldn’t sleep, I googled “ways to shut your brain off” and ended up on fluevog.com. Now every time I google something (i.e. “wrought-iron”), I am inundated with photos and slideshows of beautiful boots I covet but will never be able to afford. This is not entirely unwelcome, but it is a cautionary tale.
I shake my head back and forth to make myself concentrate. I stretch my arms, and crack my knuckles, and adjust the brightness of my computer screen. I look at the picture of my dog for a while, and then I look over my shoulder at my real dog, who is the same dog. I make another coffee, and sit back down, and think about how I should go for a walk. I think about how I should clean up. I pull some stapled-together sheets of paper out of the box marked “high school writing” that I use as a hassock. Good choice, but too much telling is scrawled across the cover page in red ink. I rip it off and tape it to the window. I should call Creative Partner, because we still have to figure out the penultimate scene of our play. I open one of the many documents we pass back and forth when I am in Cambridge, at my Cambridge desk. I flip between this and that. I think about what I will make for supper. I get back up to take chicken out of the freezer but Partner-Partner has already done it, which is great, because it’s too late for chicken to defrost before suppertime. Partner-Partner is very good at functioning, which is another reason I am lucky. I make a mental note that we’re out of mustard. I sit back down and stare at the document. I look up the weather forecast for tomorrow. It’s calling for snow. The word accumulation sticks out at me. Tomorrow, there will be a significant amount of accumulation. Yes, I think, but isn’t there always?
Nicole Leona Smith is founding Artistic Producer of Sonderlust, a theatre collective dedicated to the creation of original theatre and the staging of women’s stories, and co-Artistic Director of The Kitchen Party Theatre Festival in Central Newfoundland. A recent graduate of Humber’s Creative Writing program, Nicole’s work has appeared in a handful of literary journals, and her story ‘Something Really Unbelievable’ won the 2021 Peter Hinchcliffe Award.