I got to Starbucks early today and had the privilege of overhearing business people do their schmoozing thing while I worked on the novel. Their conversations of frustration and deceit in their jobs beg to be recorded in writing. Somehow, I’ll find a way to use them. Luckily, I found a corner table to set up shop in, and happily set up my laptop and notes to begin my visit with Alka today. She is Roshan’s mother, the woman in my novel who is the gel that clings to her son and her Indian culture. It was time to give her a voice in the whole matter of her son’s involvement with the blond haired Jennifer, who threatened to unravel the very fabric of her family.
But first, I had to say hello to Jerry, who seemed to be a fixture there while I write. I felt his eyes boring into me while I made myself at home, so I looked in his direction. His lips were pursed around a plastic coffee cup lid, but his eyes were on me. I smiled. He smiled and nodded without changing his gaze.
Okay, I guess I’m writing for an audience again today.
I’m used to his attention now, after seeing that he his flirts with every other woman who frequents the shop, I’m less creeped out by him.
So, today, my Alka became beautiful, taller than most Indian women I’ve ever met, outspoken and controlling of her only son. As I visited her during her first surprise meeting with Jennifer, my mind bent back to memories of my relationship with my mother-in-law, and I built on the tension and jealousy that fogged the air between us. While I wrote, a pretty young woman sat down at the table beside me. Her long flat-ironed blond hair and rigid all-business posture reminded me of Jennifer, whose career ruled her life, and I used that image to sculpt Alka’s animosity into a thing palpable enough to crush those around her. Including herself.
The young woman beside me pulled up an Excel spreadsheet on her own laptop, and made some business calls on her cell phone. Jerry eyed her relentlessly until she finally looked up and smiled awkwardly. Relieved not to be on stage anymore, I immersed myself again into my novel, put earbuds in my ears, and played an iTunes list of Jagjeet Singh songs to transport me to the Alka’s mind. He’s her favorite Hindi singer. I know this because I wrote it.
Eventually, when my second latte cooled, and my eyes hurt from the strain, I looked up to the real world again. Jerry was gone, and the crowd had thinned. I wondered where he’d gone. I wanted to know his story. Who is here? Why does he sit here all day?
Maybe, just maybe, his story will show up in the novel. He’s speaking to me.