Escaping reality

I know this probably constitutes shameless self-promotion, but nearly two weeks into my Greetings from Coldwater project, I could not be happier with the way things are going.

Stephen King, in his novel Misery, referred to a phenomenon he calls “falling through the hole in the paper.” The idea is that there is a point, when you are writing fiction, at which your characters and settings become so real to you that the paper on which you are writing becomes a portal to their world — a “hole” leading to an alternate reality — and as you mentally fall through this hole, writing ceases to be work and becomes, in essence, a matter of simply recording things as you observe them.

For an hour or so every evening since February 15th, I’ve used the hole in the paper to leave my life as an urban English teacher in a working-class neighborhood in Tulsa and become the owner of a tiny, shopworn motel in a tiny, shopworn town somewhere on Route 66 in rural New Mexico.

In that capacity, I’ve met a kind-hearted, grandmotherly motel owner battling the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease; the developmentally disabled handyman she looks after, and over whose future she worries; an affable feed-and-hardware store owner; a bartender named Jesus; a Japanese photographer; and, most recently, a good-natured mechanic with a fondness for classic cars. I’ve eaten menudo and cheese grits and boiled peanuts; listened to the songs of coyotes; refurbished a room; had a run-in with a creepy drifter at a laundromat; learned to operate an old-fashioned wringer washer; cleaned up a neon transformer and gotten an old sign working again; painted a picture of the view out my front window in the snow; and pulled several yards of blue shag carpet out of a motel room.

I cannot begin to explain what it’s like to wind down a day full of meetings and lesson plans and papers and discipline issues and notes to parents and countless other demands by walking into my office, logging onto WordPress, and going to New Mexico for an hour or so.

I can’t explain it, but Stephen King certainly can: It’s like falling through a hole in the paper.

The hole in Sierra’s paper is big enough for two people to squeeze through. If you want to come through it, just click here.