Wanderlust [story] by Eileen M. Cunniffe

For weeks, she’d kept the guidebooks out on her writing table. Occasionally she moved them back to the corner bookshelf, where they were less likely to tempt her. But always, after a brief banishment, they found their way back to the spot where her left elbow rested when she sat down to write. Often she couldn’t recall moving the books back to the table. Sometimes she’d find one open to a photograph of the sea or a pretty inland village. Some days a swatch of colored paper would catch her eye, poking out between two pages, a swatch that hadn’t been there the day before. She found herself unable to resist the invitation to tug at those little flags, to follow where they led. She lost whole hours at a time that way, exploring far-away lands, revisiting favorite haunts. Once she woke in the night to find the heaviest, glossiest book sprawled across her middle, open to a page she’d never visited. She knew she hadn’t taken the book to bed, but there was no other good explanation for how it had moved from one room to the next as she slept. Lately foreign words had begun slipping off the pages of her phrase books; she’d found thin trails of them in the hallway, near the squeaky floorboards, as if they were making their way to the attic, where her luggage lived. Last Thursday she received a postcard from a strange land, addressed to herself in her own loopy handwriting. This morning her reflection in the bathroom mirror seemed to have a slightly sunburnt nose, which was quite impossible. So once again she moved the guidebooks back to the shelf, and this time she anchored them with a brass-mounted globe. A short while later, she spotted a light dusting of sand on the floor near the bookshelf. She left the room and pulled the door closed behind her. From the other side, she could have sworn she heard someone knocking softly, and then the words “room service.”

Image of 1930s Switchboard Operator

[Refer: This story refers to Woodrow HIghtower’s poem “This Day Forward.”]

Image by Liz West

Here is my author bio: Eileen Cunniffe has been writing nonfiction for nearly 35 years—but the first 25 were without the benefit of a byline, as a medical writer, corporate communications manager and executive speechwriter. Her essays have appeared in journals such as Hippocampus Magazine, Ascent, Superstition Review and Stone Voices. Three of her essays have been recognized with Travelers’ Tales Solas Awards and another received the Emrys Journal 2013 Linda Julian Creative Nonfiction Award. Read more at: www.eileencunniffe.com.