After a month of writing in the passenger seat of my Honda Fit, I said “fuck it” and started writing in the bathroom.
There was little to no time to prepare when the pon farr happened. I went into quarantine (an actual quarantine) a few weeks before the rest of the world started staying home, because I’d just been on a cruise ship for my day job. I needed a place to not only do that job from home, but also to continue writing the memoir—stories from my three years at a New England boarding school—I’d sold a few months prior. The memoir I definitely thought I’d be writing at my favorite cafe, right down the street.
We first consulted with the dog, asking her if she might be willing to learn to sleep outside her crate, which takes up the one spot where my sewing desk would fit and also exists behind a door that could be shut for the sake of my concentration. If I was willing to give up my crafting space for a time, I thought perhaps she might be willing to make a sacrifice as well.
She woke my husband up at 3:00 a.m. for a full week, demanding to be locked away.
After about a month of writing in the passenger seat of my Honda Fit (sometimes parked in our garage, sometimes parked in the massive lot of the Burbank Empire Center . . . and then summer happened), I said “fuck it” and started writing in the bathroom.
I’ve tried to make it feel a little less like a bathroom as I sit surrounded by the earrings, necklaces, nail polish, and makeup worn only rarely in 2020. I certainly keep it cleaner than I might if I weren’t working here, which makes my husband (in charge of the kitchen and living room, and absolutely fastidious about them) very happy. I use our espresso machine to create the overly elaborate coffee drinks I’d normally be drinking elsewhere. I play the Coffitivity App through a Bluetooth speaker, while listening to music (a lot of Kirk Franklin) in my headphones to precisely mimic what a cafe would sound like.
Then there are the rotating series of images I bring in to sit behind my computer, which set the mood for whatever I’m working on that day. There’s Phillies player Andrew McCutchen, casually sipping Gatorade in his dugout, a constant reminder that we (Black folks) are a whole entire and constant vibe. Gene Kelly dancing with Cherylene Lee (from Flower Drum Song)—and yes, with Jerry Mouse on our shower curtain—brings a confidence so unique that it would take another 1000 words to explain. My husband’s print of Representative Ilhan Omar as a Gundam pilot is exactly the sort of weird Black girl fanart I would have coveted as a teen, so that comes too as I write about my high school years. Cubs pitcher Carl Edwards, Jr. clutching that W flag after winning the 2016 World Series simply brings me joy.
And I need the joy—because aside from being absolutely ridiculous, writing in the bathroom, in front of a comically large mirror, means constantly facing myself.
Having to look myself in the eye every time I glance up from my screen is actually a great exercise for me, a person who historically “doesn’t do feelings” and has now written a book about herself. Mirror Kendra keeps me honest. When my editor tells me I’m holding the reader at arm’s length, Mirror Kendra asks me what I’m not saying. When I’m told to dig deeper, it’s Mirror Kendra who holds my head under the surf. When writing in total isolation made me question the validity, usefulness, and purpose of the story I was telling, it was Mirror Kendra who consistently repeated my best friend’s advice back at me: “Don’t let anyone or anything gaslight you about your own experiences.”
Is it ideal that about 90 percent of my publishing debut was written, held hostage by Miss Rona in a bathroom during a global pinochle? No, absolutely not. But this makeshift office and I have made the best of it.