Joe Jordan is a travel writer. He is never in the same place, always on the move. He has an addiction. He steals hotel pens.
Joe arrives back home in New York City, a place he has not been since his boyfriend broke up with him. Home is used loosely anyway as Joe has just been moving from one hotel to the next. He now has an assignment in NYC to write an article with the title, “5 Ways to Rediscover New York.” A daunting task for Joe who grew up in New York, thinks he has seen it all, and he remains increasingly unsettled since his break up. Staying at the current hotel, Joe meets Claude, a man who translates romance books. An intimate moment is the start of a treasure hunt leading Joe through the city with Claude writing clues on his skin using hotel pens. Joe just might just be able to rediscover New York and that might not be all that is waiting for him.
Hotel Pens. A short story that hits hard for a whole variety of reasons. It’s the immediate connection to the main character Joe, it’s the ability to read a well crafted story in a small number of pages, and it’s the many lines that stand out to be quoted:
When we go back to a previous time there is humor as Joe tells us:
So I don’t confuse things too much, this is a flashback.
When Claude describes his job there is a bit of depth:
I translate romance books…. It’s not about the sex. It’s about the story.
When Joe asks Claude about his story, there is emotion:
He let out a sigh…. It wasn’t sadness or annoyance or frustration or defeat. It was—the sound of a mended heart that would never forget how it had broken in the first place.
The story begins, we go back a bit, and then catch up right back in the same place, with a bit of a seamless overlap. Claude gives Joe clues and Joe wants to know why Claude is doing this. Why indeed? New York City is the backdrop for this story and being very familiar with all of the locations that are visited, my imagination was able to run around with Joe and Claude, which added an extra layer. There are little bits of treasure sprinkled in throughout the journey, with love and loss, the good that is in NYC, and the devastation that is lurking.
The guys are intimate quickly and we learn more about Joe than we do about Claude, but it’s just enough for the length of the story. The depth of Joe’s feelings start to run deep quickly given the length of time they men know each other (barely 24 hours), but we can go with it on this one.
Depending on how this story will hit you, there is evidence of love and loss, good times and devastation, sadness, and perhaps the possibility of hope to love again. When looking for a short story, this would be an excellent choice.