Written Cassidy Bull
Art by Eak K
The espresso machine behind the counter gurgles, struggling to add the last few drops to the cup underneath. Two baristas move quickly—it’s rush hour—taking cash, washing blenders, drizzling syrup, adding vegan cream, pouring Colombian goodness into to-go cups. I don’t know how they keep up with it. Fast-paced—I’ve never been good at it.
Writing—I’m pretty good at it. It’s Thursday. I’ve been at this cafe every day since Monday. A table in the corner with dim lighting, where I could peer over the top of my computer at the endless variety of lives streaming in the door and back out again, coffees in hands. With this many stories right in front of me, you’d think inspiration would arrive along with them.
My boot taps against the wooden floor in time with the beat of the lo-fi music emanating from small speakers in ceiling corners. With every pat, I feel the sole bind for just a moment to the perpetually sticky floor. With every piano note, I feel the soul of almost-jazz players immortalized indefinitely by digitized records.
Maybe I could write about music. A book about a musician. No, I didn’t know anything about music. I gave up the violin when I was ten. The only thing I remembered was the eternal crick in my neck from the awkward way the instrument had to be positioned. Now, I just enjoy the talents of other people, reap the brilliance from someone else’s hard work rather than my own.
A young woman with three kids who all look the same walks up to the counter. One kid, barely as tall as the counter, attempts to peer over it. The woman, I’ll call her Anna—she looks like an Anna—orders and pays with a card. I don’t hear her words, but I imagine she asks for an extra shot of energy. One kid, with long hair that hasn’t been brushed in a while, holds onto Anna’s leg as if afraid she would float away. They move to the end of the counter where the finished products are spit out. The wait begins. One kid, spinning around in circles, perhaps out of boredom, sings the alphabet song a little too loudly. Anna hushes.
Maybe I could write about Anna. A book about a mother of triplets, just doing her best in this mad world that doesn’t appreciate mothers enough. No, I didn’t know anything about mothers. I had a good one, but I wasn’t one. I didn’t want to be.
I want to be a writer, not a caretaker. Whatever the gene was that makes people want to raise mini versions of themselves, I didn’t have it. I want to live alone in a lighthouse, not in the suburbs. Climb the skinny spiral staircase to the spinning bulb larger than me and look out over the waves crashing into sea stacks. Watch the ships in the distance, knowing they’re watching me. Breathe in salty air and breathe out beautiful books because I’d have all the time I’d need to weave words together. My memoir will be subtitled In The Lighthouse. Admirers of Woolf will appreciate.
Until then, I’m stuck in this coffee shop. Waiting for inspiration to walk in and strike my mind, then ideas will flow from my fingers like lightning. I stare at the empty document in front of me. The text cursor endlessly blinking, mocking. I hate that tiny vertical line.
Maybe I could write about this coffee shop. A story about trying to write, trying to find inspiration in the people who enter while I watch from the dimly lit corner table, tapping my foot against the floor riddled with remnants of old spilt coffee, as I dream about a hermit future, accompanied only by far away boats and my own crafted sentences. No, that’s stupid.
The baristas start to wipe down tables, subtly informing us they are closing soon. I pack up my stuff. I’ll be back tomorrow.
Another day gone. Still the same blank page.