I can’t help but scoff as he furiously scribbles in his notebook.
He looks up.
I awkwardly shift my gaze down, staring wide-eyed at the table top. Had he heard me? Did I actually audibly scoff. I want melt into a puddle and seep into the soil of the Earth. Unfortunately, my escape has been foiled; the slate flooring has been expertly laid. It’s sure to be water tight.
I look up past the confines of my brow, elusively monitoring the situation. False alarm. He’s staring into space, chewing on the rubber of his pencil, collecting his thoughts.
A pencil? Seriously? Who does he think he is with his thick, black frames, blue checked shirt, and neat haircut. Allen Ginsberg? Yes, he clearly thinks he is Allen Ginsberg. That boyish face and strong chin. Those curly, unruly brown locks, supported by neat trim on the back and sides.
A young Allen Ginsberg.
Allen Ginsberg never would have worn those middling loafers.
He goes back to his scrawling and I hate him. It’s bad enough that he is writing in a Moleskine, with a pencil. But to throw his unrelenting inspiration in my face? Maybe if I had committed to the romanticism of a Moleskine, I might be able to find my own inspiration.
Instead I am sitting in a café, with my sensible Samsung laptop glowing before me, glaring desperately at the bottom of my empty coffee cup. I need another. Thankfully, the adept wait-staff at Cantina 663 can sniff out my need for a coffee hit, the caffeine leaking from my sweaty pores.
“Another flat white?” inquires a patchy beard in skinny black jeans.
“Yes. Skinny flat white.”
Who am I kidding? Whatever calories saved will be made up when I binge eat my boredom through a packet of barbecue chips later this afternoon. That won’t actually happen. I would love for that to happen, but I couldn’t let myself get any closer to the wrong side of “gay fat”.
“Of course. Skinny flat white”
The beard is all smiles as he wafts away.
After twenty five consecutive days of trying, and failing, to complete one piece of writing, I decided to shake things up with a change of scenery. Grasp this image: a writer, alone with his pain, in his dank, dark house, every day for months on end, hunched over his desk unravelling every inch of his tortured soul through the words on his pages. It’s a romantic vision that quickly transformed into an insipid existence once I attempted to live it. As much as I would love to write at home, the stilted confines of my four apartment walls are an oppressive birthplace for inspiration. And distractions are insidious.
A shriek reverberates throughout the café. I look up to locate the source of distress. A hair in the duck liver parfait? Someone choking on a Kalamata olive? A robbery? Three women hover in the café’s entrance, gently grasping at each other’s shoulders and squawking with delight at some secret joke. They make obviously feigned attempts to shush each other, which are almost as loud as their shrieking. Their beady eyes dart the room, to see if they have caught the attention of the room. I am ashamed to have given them what they want. Moleskine is chewing his pencil again, unperturbed by The Bitches Three. I hate him more.
The women continue to loiter around the entrance, nattering with glee. Their presence must mean it is two o’clock in the afternoon. You could set your watch to it. The three women are clones, each sporting the same designer casual look: long, shiny hair, tied back in a pony-tail; modest, yet skilfully flattering make-up; and summery blouses and skirts that hug their svelte bodies. They are yummy mummies who are meeting for their afternoon chai latté before they pick up their girls from Perth College, an elite all-girls private school up the road. They want their outfits to say “I am a busy, important, working woman”, but what it actually says is “I am a house wife, with a rich husband, and I have been busy shopping for drapes and cushions all morning”.
They are insisting to wait to be seated, when they would know damn well that anyone can walk in and take whatever seat they like. A waiter finally greets them and my heart cries just a little. For this, I guess I should be grateful.
For months, my heart has felt sedated. At least the part that pumps my creative juices. However, my heart has also been racing with anxiety. I have felt unsettled, directionless, listless. Ironically, I have actually never been more free to pursue my writing. For three months, I have been unemployed. Five months, if you count the time before it I took traveling. Every day I have awoken, unencumbered by the daily 9 to 5 grind.
“Use this time to do everything you ever wanted!”
Sage words from my employed boyfriend. He is right: I should have taken this time off as a gift. And yet, I have been unable to function as an intelligent human being. I clean, I water the garden, I watch television, I read the occasional book. But fuck you if you think I can sit down and string a paragraph together. I just can’t do it. I cannot function in the unknown.
With the limitless opportunity to do what I like, I feel unable to do anything. I get restless, and then l succumb to laziness, because anything can be done tomorrow. If I am to function, I need deadlines. I need pressure. I need commitment. I need to know how I will pay my next bill. My credit card and my boyfriend are not good enough answers (albeit very appreciated).
So here I am, sitting in a café with my laptop, like a wannabe hipster in a Starbucks commercial, and I am actually writing. I would like to call this a successful break from the mould. But it’s a cop-out: breaking my writer’s block by writing about my writer’s block. I have written about my writer’s block as many times as I have written about every other topic there is, which is to say I have written about it a lot. But, at least I am writing. Now excuse me while I tell the waiter about the novel I’m writing. You know, just to complete the fucking stereotype.
I have been so encapsulated by my typing, I failed to notice that Moleskine had been joined by another person. This is certainly no Kerouac. He’s an older man, perhaps late thirties, dressed in an over-sized suit. Moleskine is ordering him a coffee. Wait, is this a business meeting? Moleskine wasn’t writing the next great Australian novel? Oh happy day!
I would love to say that I have re-wired my instincts and learned to write through unchartered territory. This is partly true. I started writing this piece three days ago, whilst sitting in a café, unencumbered in the world. Or as unencumbered as a man with a mortgage can be. Three days ago I started writing this piece. Two days ago I received an offer for a job. I accepted. I start on the seventh of January.
My boyfriend laughed. He said that I would kick myself for not using my free time when I had it. It’s true, three months were squandered. Now I have two and a half weeks left and I am back on the writing train. Let’s hope it’s a good ride.