The View Out Any Window
More than twenty years ago, I was living in an extra small studio apartment in downtown Manhattan. My life up until then had been dizzy with part-time work and acting projects, brief, doomed relationships. A few months before, I’d stopped auditioning and started an MFA in fiction writing at Columbia. While this new route may not have been exactly practical, I was trying to grow up and get to work. During the time I wasn’t uptown in class, I planted myself downtown in my studio, at my butcher’s block table, one side of which was pressed up against my studio window, as if the energy from the streets below might somehow make its way into my prose. And I wrote. Or I thought about writing. Or I watched the people and the cars. Or the buildings across the street. The streetlights. The construction scaffolding.
I was having a little trouble focusing.
To be fair, I was in my mid-twenties and distractions abounded. Should I take an acting job in Massachusetts that I’d just been offered at a theater I loved even though it was a terrible play and I’d just started my writing program? Should I go on a third date with a guy who claimed he was a producer even though I couldn’t figure out what he actually produced? Should I go out with the wedding guest I’d recently met who, early in the evening, toasted the bride and groom with a wit so dry it left the crowd slightly confused, and later on sang Elvis tunes (very well!) with the band? I’d been flattered when he asked me to dance. Then we’d drunk too much champagne and made out like two people unlikely to ever see each other again
“I got a job!” I try to sound upbeat when I say this into the payphone receiver. I turn my back to the hot street full of people and early summer evening traffic. I whisper into the phone, “It’s not a very nice place.”
My boyfriend Neil groans and asks, “Not that place on 28th and 8th Ave?”
I nod, even though he can’t see me. I am standing on the sidewalk in a one-piece bathing suit and high heels. “Yes,” I admit finally.
“Call me when you get home tonight,” he says. Then he hangs up.
I shrug. After a week of no work and a day and a half with no food, I can’t afford to pass on this position. Yesterday I spent my last subway token to see Neil. I was hoping he would feed me. My communist roommates were out of food to filch. But Neil didn’t seem hungry last night and his cupboard was bare.
When Susan and I first conceived of a literary website highlighting the work of womxn of a certain age, the alliteration of our chosen title enchanted us. Though both of our primary undertakings at the moment are in fiction, we knew we wanted to include nonfiction as well in our new magazine. But we never wavered in our choice of title. We figured we could cover that inconsistency by noting that nonfiction is just one version of a story. Now, I’m a career journalist who winces at the attacks on the media and the proliferation of accusations about “fake news.” But what we are doing is a long way from journalism. Hot Flash Fiction promotes literature—fiction and nonfiction stories, whose veracity we have no intention of fact-checking—that will be up to the reader to determine.
For our debut issue, we received dozens of submissions and selected two smart and well-written stories. In “The View Out Any Window,” Joanna Hershon, reflects on the road taken and affirms her choice. The theme of lives missed or roads not taken is one that I am very interested in and tackle in my writing. We liked Joanna’s handling of this topic—her affirmation of the life she chose and the pathways she left behind.
Similarly, when we read JJ Lancey’s “Spitting Champagne,” we were taken. Like Joanna’s, JJ’s story dealt with her youth and New York City. Maybe it was the passage in the piece when the narrator describes calling her boyfriend from a payphone in her bathing suit and high heels that had us hooked. Or maybe it’s when the narrator crosses from childhood into adulthood with the denial of an egg cream.
Only later did we realize that we’d chosen two nonfiction pieces for the debut of Hot Flash Fiction, purportedly a fiction magazine. We considered whether this was a problem. And then we realized, we’re 50. We can do what we want. — Eliza Amon, Editor