Belarus. Two years ago. No. Three. I’m wandering her streets in a pair of Red Wing boots so new they moo with each step. Their thick, sturdy leather carve canyons in my heels and ankles that bleed and then scab over then bleed and scab over again.
The salesman back in Tennessee who sold them to me warned not to worry. The bleeding and the scabbing and the tenderness is me earning them. I add another pair of socks, the cushion in the canyon offers a reprieve from the pain. I keep walking.
Across from my hotel. A great big place with ceilings so high you could grow mountains inside of them. You can’t toss a baseball high enough to kiss them. All the buildings in Minsk are this way. Enormous lego blocks that eat up entire city blocks like starships on E, grounded.
Now at the bar in the hotel with the God-like ceilings. Angels are fussing about up there, somewhere. I sit down at the bar top. It’s a smooth hunk of marble that seems to run the length of a 100-meter dash. Holding your breath and walking it, end to end, would be a feat worthy of applause.
The bartender spots me. He looks at me as if I am rich. In Belarus, I am rich. He sets an ashtray down in front of me. It’s made of crystal. Crystal so true I wonder if I can’t see my future in it. I stare into it and see myself staring back, scattered and sharded, like a colorless Kaleidoscope.
To my surprise, he speaks English. I order two Moscow Mules.
He asks: One, then the other?
I say: Both, at the same time.
He asks: Vodka, Russian or Belarusian?
I say: The latter.
The Moscow Mules are strong and they are good and they are sweet but not overly so, humming with basil and lime and chilled by ice that has been massacred into a slush in a heavy burlap bag. I order seven. I write twenty-something poems and bits of prose that eventually end up in One Minute, Please?
When the poetry begins to stink and becomes stopped up like a fraternity commode, I switch to advertising. I write like Kerouac, stream of consciousness, on everything I know about advertising and copywriting.
This eventually becomes How to write words that sell like a Florida Snow Cone Vendor on the hottest day of the year. What a title for something made in Belarus.
I write until 11 p.m., until the lines start reading like Russian. I close out my tab with a pen hot and wet from the ink slinging. I saunter out of the hotel. Working like a mule not to look drunk. Two pretty blue-eyed Belarusian women in minks look at me. I look back. Then, to the two brutish men with faces like boxers accompanying them.
The women look at me as if I’m an exotic beast hibernating in Minsk for the winter. I’ve been here two weeks. I will be here one more. All the while I see no one my shade.
In their eyes, I see a mix of disgust and a small inkling of curiosity, of what I look like without any clothes on. I take another look at the boxers and their chins, thick, like cinderblocks and I decide not to let them find out.
Instead, I make my drunken French Exit. The doorman hands me my faded Levi’s coat in stride like it’s a baton and the pair of us are gunning for gold.
Out in the cold. The snow falls in thick delightful heaps as if God himself is brushing flour from his hands. I pull out a pack of cigarettes from the worn pocket of my Levi, a pocket as sturdy as one you might find hugging the corner of a pool table. I pry a tooth from its jaws and slip it in-between my pursed lips and hold it there, as I hunt for my lighter with open palms.
I come up short. I cross the street with a cigarette behind my ear and enter into the hotel where I make my bed and fade. The alarm opens hells gates in the room hours later. I wake up drunk. I wake up a mess. I wake up alive.
I shower, cold. I brush my coffee-stained teeth. I shave my neck but let my beard run wild. I pop a Klonopin. I yank on my heel devouring boots and let them lead me to a small cafe where I devour black coffee, bacon and eggs that are too runny.
An hour later, I’m sitting at a conference room table. Across from me are the faces of the men who hired me to be there. I spend the rest of the day writing like a mother fucker and in the night I do it all over again, the same as the night before.
But, I digress.
By Cole Schafer.
Sticky Notes is my email list reserved for entrepreneurs, creatives, marketers, writers and freelancers looking to sell like hell (without losing their soul).
Originally published at https://www.honeycopy.com on October 7, 2020.