Steven Pashmina always told the joke that he was the portable Steven Pashmina because he brought everything about him no matter where he went. He told this joke at dinner parties and get-togethers that were more and less formal; he told it to his Editor, to his friends, to his parents. It elicited a chuckle. Truth be told, it was a stupid joke. Really, you could say anyone was portable. Unless they had a lot of baggage, he supposed. Or maybe, that would end up making them more portable.
The sad part, he supposed, is that it was true. For someone who was a writer, he really missed the memo that told him how, exactly, to interact with the world that he was writing about. Writers are supposed to lurk in dark corners taking notes on humanity, then run back to their typewriters like squirrels carrying nuts for the winter. Right?
Okay, that metaphor got a little out of hand.
Ironically, one might say he wasn’t portable at all; just look at his downtown Toronto apartment. He had vinyl records and wine glasses and large furniture. He did not live a simplistic life. He wrote books and went to parties and got take-out all the time because he hated to cook and was always tired for no apparent reason. His trash was a cornucopia of different cultures through their empty food containers.
He had been in this damn city for seven years and was no closer to finding the modern Holy Grail, the one that would give his life meaning and define himself like he had never been able to. Steven didn’t even have a vague idea what it was. Maybe the city wasn’t dirty enough. Toronto is, after all, one of the cleanest cities in the world. Seven (and a half) years ago in New Brunswick, about to graduate, he cited that as one of his reasons why he wanted to move. That is why he turned down a job at his parent’s paper, content to shuffle through his young life of menial jobs and late nights trying to write. And one day he did, and he thought it was going to solve everything and he would be happy. In Steven’s mind, writing a book equaled permanent Xanax.
So he got up every morning and paid his bills from what was in his savings account and made coffee and puttered around his apartment pretending that he was performing elaborate rituals which needed to be performed before he could sit down at his seventeen-inch MacBook and write his next opus.
Then, of course, after he checked his email and read the news and drank several cups of coffee and vacuumed and took a shower and put his laundry in the bin, he realized he had no food in the house and took serious consideration in what he would be getting for lunch.
Something that Steven didn’t believe in (besides television) was having food delivered. So once he decided (again, after serious consideration) what he wanted for lunch, he would leave the apartment to pick it up.
He’d climb down the three flights of stairs to the first floor, where he would leave the lobby and end up on the sidewalk. Depending where he was going, he’d either walk, take the subway, or hop on a streetcar. Toronto was unique in the fact that even in the year 2009, it still had running streetcars, and Steven remembered this was a pang of nostalgia for a time he wasn’t alive for. Sometimes he’d sit and eat it there, or end up taking it home with him. Then, of course, he would remember something he needed at the store, or stop at the Indigo Books, or get a coffee. He’d meander through the streets, and eventually make his way home, where he would eat food and check his email yet again.
This would repeat itself around dinnertime as well. Occasionally he’d ride the streetcar to Kensington Market and visit a friend of his who was a musician and while he wasn’t looking for the level of distraction that Steven was (Steven was so practiced at this that he could have gotten the gold medal at the Olympics if it was a sport) he was always looking for distraction to a certain degree. So they would sit around and talk, or watch movies, or any number of banal distracting things. Then Steven would go home, with the intention to write, and get lost in his mind, which was a great distraction.
One of his favorite distracting things to was to think about what he could be doing with his life. This happened a lot while sitting on the couch, taking a shower, the aforementioned vacuuming, or trying to fall asleep. He was the first who would tell you to never, never try to think about twenty-seven years worth of decisions while you’re trying to fall asleep at night. It just doesn’t work. You won’t be able to sleep, and then, if you manage to do just that, your dreams won’t let you rest. Steven’s dreams were so vivid that it eliminated the need for television. Vivid dreams were his television.
Some days, when Steven woke up from these dreams, he considered buying a dogsled, traveling the American west by bicycle, or moving to the Netherlands to become a wooden clog maker.
Look for the newest feature on Globe and Mail.com. Every Sunday, read Dispatches from the Writing Life by Steven Pashmina, author of Portmanteau. Steven’s second novel, untitled as of yet, is due to hit bookstores this fall.
“What a terrible name, right? I don’t know who’s life they’re talking about, but it’s not mine.” Steven put down the paper with the advertisement for the technology that was killing it. “I don’t know why I agreed to this.”
Dave looked up from his magazine across the table at Tim’s. “What?”
“The Globe and Mail online thing. You know, this.” He handed Dave the paper, who looked at it quizzically. Then he said: “You’re writing for the Globe and Mail?”
Steven sighed, and decided to exercise his patience, which had been a couch potato lately. “I am.”
“That’s pretty cool,” he said, handing the paper back.
Dave had a way of letting everything slide off of his back, or so it seemed. If anyone pointed this out to him, he claimed that it was all in his name. Dave, or rather, David Henry was named after Henry David Thoreau, the “famous cabin dweller” at Walden Pond. Of course, he’d also tell you that because his name was flipped around, he had an air of coolness about him that the original Thoreau was lacking.
His parents flipped it around because they didn’t want to come off as immediately pretentious.
“Yeah, I guess,” Steven sighed. “It’s just—I don’t like comment to deadlines that everyone with access to the Internet will know if I miss.”
“A real comfort, you know that?”
“What do you want me to say? You’ve got a cushy gig.”
“I have no book to come out in the fall.”
“Then why does it say you do?”
“Well,” Steven paused after this—- “the non-existent book has a release date.”
“Ah. You might want to get writing that, then.”
Dave stood up, slinging his black messenger bag over his shoulder. “I’ve got to go meet Margaret.”
“Where are you meeting her?”
“A Tim’s on Bloor.”
Steven chuckled. “Another Tim Horton’s? That’s two in an hour.”
“I’ll need more coffee by the time I get there.”
“Alright, see ya.”
Steven started to shuffle the papers contents, but Dave showed back up at the edge of the table.
“Forgot my coffee,” he said, grabbing the cup. “Also, know what?”
“I’ll be able to read it with my iPhone. I won’t even need a computer.”
“Thanks, Dave,” Steven said, shooting him a glare.
A grin from Dave told Steven that his mission was accomplished. He scooted out the door and into the afternoon crowd before Steven could even say a word.