A man in the the early afternoon of his life (approximately 1:00 to 1:30 pm) hops a plane to the Northwestern corner of his host country, the one he sometimes calls home, and dials a number, speaks a popular foreign language, writes down an address, says thank you, until soon, ends the call, looks at the clock on this cellular phone, opens a map and directs himself toward a hotel.

On his back is a rucksask, which he calls a “blid” because the top part of it has what looks like a big lid that extends higher than his head. He also refers to people like him, the rucksackers, as blids because they walk around with big lids higher than their heads. Blids are walking/living advertisements for people who are overloaded, semi-bewildered and wayworn. They are “not from here” and today, he is one of them. Attached to his chest is a smaller backpack of the same brand (harnessed backwards) that holds his writing device, research for something he is writing, a copy of the first draft of that something that was written, his digital music player, a camera and various cables with which to connect them all to his writing device.

The temperature is 34 degrees, according to a woman he overheard complaining about the heat. He’s been in his host country so long that he doesn’t quite know what that is in his pre-programmed Fahrenheit gauge, but he knows that it is, in fact, hot. Damn hot, or insupportably hot – as the woman had said – the insupportably hottest damn day of the year. If he had to guess, he would say about 95 degrees and with the humidity factor, over 100. He walks around for a 10 minutes and wipes his forehead over 20 times with his palm, a bead of sweat readily forms at the bottom of his chin seconds after he wipes it away. His new black shirt holds a newer shade of darkness, a dampened black, where he is sweating without pause.

At the hotel, he disentangles himself from his blid burden, wipes his forehead with his palm and asks how much a room costs. Thirty-one euros, the cute girl behind the desk says smiling, plus tax. He pauses, looks around the two-star hotel lobby and weighs the possibility of exiting and looking for something cheaper of the same quality of slightly more expensive but of higher quality. Behind the girl behind the desk is a mirror and he sees himself in it, the sweat a relentless rain with which he uses his palms like intermittent wipers to keep it from falling into his eyes and impairing his vision.

I’ll take it, he says.

The room is spartan: there’s a bed big enough to entomb one person, a window, a small desk with a chair and very small TV dangling off the wall in the corner. He is exhausted. He takes off all his clothes and considers a shower but only after he’s lying in bed, at which time he closes his eyes and quickly drifts off to a siesta – or as most Brits call it (and make a point of this whenever they are around this particular foreigner), a kip.

The alarm on his cell phone brings him back to consciousness an hour and half later. He rubs his head and eyes and looks at the time on his cell phone. He is running late for his appointment to see a room in an apartment. He can shower in one minute or skip the shower and just towel down and deodorize heavily. Outside his hotel window, the evening twilight is blanketing and the heat is dropping. He stands up,
staggers for a second at the window, grabs his camera and snaps a photo.


Its a rugged, post-industrial town. Most of the roofs need replacing from the heavy rain and are stained accordingly, he thinks, but if they replaced them, it might not have such an industrial appeal. And who wants to live in an ancient land that’s been refurbished, renovated and redone to look like a retro-ancient one?

Not I, he says and jumps in the shower for one full minute before drying, tossing his clothes on, putting the smaller rucksack on his back and whishing himself out the door and down into the street toward his appointment.

Rua León looked semi-close to his hotel on the map, but maps are always deceptive, even if you take into account the conversion factor in the legend. And this town is full of hills, putting you in a perpetual state of incline or decline. His destination is a definite incline, all the way up, he can see it, and while the small rucksack on his back weighs 1/10th of the colossal blid he had on earlier, this little one still packs a little punch and the incline looks never-ending.

20 minutes later he arrives at Rua León, 12. He looks around the area; adjacent to the flat is a walking area that looks like it was one a street for cars but was turned into a sizable thoroughfare for shopping and café loitering.


Across the street from his flat are two bars and next to it is another; on the other side of the flat is a
gym and he thinks that these could come in handy if decides to take up karate, thai-chi…


or drinking.


Two people arrive and literally say “Hello” as if to impress them with their English. The local says his name and they shake hands. The foreigner asks him to repeat it and without hesitation the woman answers for him, Suso, as in Jesucristo – it’s a diminutive, she says, and then releases her name: Maria. Suso is a brittle man in his fifties with nearly translucent skin, blue eyes and shaved white hair. He speaks with
an  operatic intonation and subtle hesitation that almost makes it seem like he doesn’t speak the same tongue as the foreigner. Maria is a whiz at the language, is slightly overweight, in her late forties and has several severely discolored teeth, the rest of which appear only mildly discolored.

All three enter in the front door into the vestibule. There’s no elevator, Maria says, and its on the second floor. They make their way up and Suso stops in front of the door and points to the light above the door saying its automatic. He fumbles with the key in the lock and turns and looks up at the light. You see,
he says, you don’t have to touch anything, it automatically knows you are there, as if to reiterate the high-tech function of the front door light. The foreigner nods his head.

They walk in and immediately he is gripped by a stale odor. Here’s your room, Suso says motioning him into the room, and your desk which I put in here yesterday. In front of the desk is a small chair, suitable for a child in a playroom. This isn’t the right chair Maria, Suso says, get the other one, which she does and
hands him quickly. Suso pushes down the chair while engaging some lever underneath it and explains how customizable it is. He gets down on one knee and says, look here, this lever right here allows you to move it up and down with no problems. The foreigner nods his head again, thinking about the motion-sensor light
and this man’s preoccupation with these accessories that seem to make life so much easier—or more accurately, the flat so modern. Without them, he would most certainly be roughing it.The room
is even more spartan than the hotel. There’s a lazy chair in the corner with no cushion to sit on
and a wobbly closet door which disengages into his hands when he tries to move it.


Oops, Suso says, this is nothing, I’ll fix this

Maria stands at the threshold of the door, lights a cigarette and puts her hand outside the room, as if the smoke might bother the foreigner. He doesn’t see it at first but intuits it, feels that it
is there. Upon her next dragging of the cigarette and putting it outside the door, he looks and confirms it – she has a dark patch of hair under her armpit.
Contrary to many European stereotypes, he realizes that this is the first woman he’s seen in this country—besides lesbians and the occasional hardcore hippy—that doesn’t shave her armpits. He is unbothered by this because he should (hopefully) never have to see her in any capacity that will force him to think of this any further.

They show him the rest of the flat. It consists of a kitchen with the most basic of utensils,


the washing machine out on the dust-filled terrace, the bathroom that has no curtain, not even bars with which to hang one if he would want to, a very small neglected living area


and two other bedrooms, the last of which is David’s, who they tell him is the only one living here at the moment and is rarely at home. When he is, they say, he isn’t very social. That’s OK, the foreigner says, it won’t bother me.

So you’re a writer—huh?, Maria asks while covering the beds with a sheet.

He says yes well I’m working on someth—Maria cuts him off, I’m reading Neetzch, do you know
who he is? You mean the German philosopher?, the foreigner replies, I’ve read some of his stuff. Be careful, Maria warns, I’m reading the one he wrote just before he went crazy, at which point she looks to Suso and he guesses –you mean the one with that crazy name – Zarthstru? No, not that one, Maria shakes her head, the one about good and bad and there’s another book that comes published with it. I’ve read some of his stuff, the foreigner repeats. Maria tells him to be careful, that he shouldn’t go crazy trying to write something
like this Neetzch character. Well I’m not a philosopher, the foreigner adds, and Maria shakes her head again and says that all writers are philosophers and subject to same whims and weaknesses. I’ll be careful, the foreigner smiles, thinking about he never would have pegged Maria to be a Nietzsche fan.

They discuss the price, 200 euros, which includes all costs associated with the flat and room including WiFi. There is a lock on the door to his room and he asks where the key is. Suso says that he thinks there’s a key to it somewhere but if he can’t find it, it will be no problem to come over here one day and replace it.
You shouldn’t have anything to worry about here, he continues, David is barely here and this Belgian girl that’s coming will be studying Marine biology at the port, so they won’t be here very much. I know, the foreigner replies, there’s probably nothing to worry about but you never know what might happen and I want
to make sure that I have a writing device with which to write on, if not, that is to say, if it gets stolen, then
my entire purpose for being here will be for nothing. I’ll be by in a few days to replace the lock then, Suso says, finally accepting the condition with which the man will move in.

They shake hands and the foreigner heads back to his two-star hotel, wondering if the place is truly adequate for what he wants. It’s not exactly comfortable, there’s no shower curtain and no lock on the door and while I am here to write, he says aloud descending the hill into downtown, I am on vacation and damn
there are some very fine-looking women in this capital beach town and I can’t imagine writing for eight hours a day straight when I haven’t written for even thirty minutes in the past year with any consistency.

He asks himself the most fundamental of questions: what does a writer really need to write? Sure, creature comforts like small lamps, dictionaries and thesauruses, a nice lazy-boy with which to read and research in and get a quick kip in, those would be nice, he thinks. And maybe a stereo if s/he likes music to write with, a fan if its hot, some wall space with which to write words and notes on and maybe a bookshelf to hold books on for reference. These things are pleasant and probably required for many, but in essence, the only things a writer really needs is what this armpit-of-a-shared-flat has to offer: a chair to sit on and a desk to put the writing device on. All else is superfluous.

He considers the options: getting a cheaper hostel for another night or two, looking at more flats around the same price but hopefully of better quality, some that may not even have a desk in it. And this Suso character really did hook me up with that desk, he admits, it is the finest piece of furniture in the whole forgettable shack, not to mention customizable chair and motion-sensor light at the front door. Hell, It’s 200 euros—everything included—and no one gets hurt, he says, almost whistling down the wind.

The next day comes and he decides to take it. He mounts the blids on his back and chest and walks toward the main street looking for a taxi. The weather is considerably better today, probably about 21 degrees, but still begins to downpour sweat profusely with the heavy blid burden now in full bore.

He gets to the flat, meets Suso to whom he gives 200 euros and gets a set of keys and a quick handshake in return before disappearing. The foreigner immediately sweeps the entire flat and dusts everything, then takes all the possessions out of the blids and puts them in their proper place. Finally, he sets up his writing device, plugs it in and turns it on…


and begins writing:

A man in the the early afternoon of his life (approximately 1:00 to 1:30 pm) hops a plane to the Northwestern corner of his host country, the one he sometimes calls home, and dials a number, speaks a popular foreign language, writes down an address, says thank you, until soon, ends the call, looks at the clock on this cellular phone, opens a map and directs himself toward a hotel.

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KIP TOBIN's real name is Stephen Christopher Tobin, but no one really calls him that, not even his mom. His favorite letter is "i", which is also one his least favorite words; his favorite words tend to include euphonious consonants like Ls and Rs and Ss, such as surly luscious allure. He relocated to middle America last year. He writes fiction and nonfiction but will not tweet. He's currently working on his doctorate in Latin American Literatures and Cultures, studying the intersection of the body, vision and media in contemporary Hispanic Science Fiction . If asked, he will tell you that S. Gautauma pretty much summed 'er all up when he said: All things are transient. Work out your own salvation. He's constantly in that latter process, all the while trying to become as present and aware as he possibly can in this world of simulacra and simulations. You can leave a message on the board here and he will try to get to back with you. His alter ego sometimes posts music mixes on Tip Robin's Mega Maxi Music Mix Mash (tiprobin.blogspot.com), which is unsearchable on the internet and something of a micro, gotta-be-in-the-know phenomenon. He's no longer a part of the social networking revolution. The revolution, it seems, will not be televised but rather streamed, and he hopes he's not watching it. He wishes everyone good luck whenever he can. Good luck.

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