A couple women visited my collage show a few weeks back. Then one of them ordered a pet portrait for the other. I get photos of said pet while I’m in LA. I write the pet owner that it might be a week or two before I can get to the painting. But it eats at me the whole drive back to Chicago. I hate feeling work hanging over me.

So when I get home and see the place isn’t yet habitable, I pack paper and paints along with a few days’ clothes. I move the hotel table so it’s by the window and set up a makeshift studio. Amazing how few objects it takes to make a room feel like it’s mine. A couple of glasses with paint-greyed water, some crumpled up napkins, gouache, brushes, and a paintbox. A t-shirt and some socks on the floor. A flannel half-draped over a chair back. A couple books on the night table. All but one pillow thrown off the bed. Now it’s home.

I finish up with Nessie on my second day at the hotel and go to Target to buy a cheap frame. It only takes a couple days to develop a rhythm. I really could live here no problem except for the nightly bill. I write the pet owner I’ll deliver her painting the next day.

I wonder how many weeks in this room it would take to amass a bunch of crap like I have at home. I bet it wouldn’t take that long. Back in my place now, I think about how hard I’ve tried to purge myself of things, yet there’s still so much here. Maybe I should pretend this is a hotel.

I take the Red Line north, then one stop on the Purple, then walk west a couple blocks. It’s a mid-century apartment building with an intercom. I hear Nessie before I see her. She’s barking bloody murder. Her embarassed owner hopes the dog will calm down but she never does. Eventually, she’s locked in another room so the humans can talk. I tell the woman about living with a dog not unlike Nessie for a time. This dog would yap and yap every time I got up from the table. He knew I wouldn’t be there forever. That it was just a matter of waiting me out. And he was right.

The woman says the painting is cute and thanks me. I don’t ask her why she named her mutt after the Loch Ness Monster because it’s self-explanatory. I take the train back downtown to my temporary home.

I paint the view out the window one more time before it’s time to check out.