I struggle to see my laptop screen, and I’m sweating in the sun wrapping around me through the glass wall at Starbucks. A couple of women in tennis skirts are sitting at the table beside me, gossiping about booster club politics and a friend, whose teenage son was busted for drinking. I recognize them from one sports team or another. Or maybe it’s “meet-and-greet” at school last fall. It doesn’t matter. They are part of the mom collective around here. They all blend.
“Do you think he’ll lose his scholarship?”
“I don’t know, but if he were my son…”
“Well, look at the role models he had. His parents gave him no limits…”
Wishing I had some earbuds to block out the jabber, I keep my eyes fixed on the screen. I’ve only just recently gotten up the courage to set up writing shop here, out in public, for prying eyes to see. I loathe the isolation of writing in my office, and at long last, I’m out of the closet. Inhaling the sweet, bitter aroma around me, I focus myself.
I am an author.
Unpublished, yes. Aspiring, no.
I don’t aspire. I do.
As I type, I feel the eyes of my local admirer on me from his usual corner. He’s a handsome black man, with silver hair, and warm eyes. A fixture here. The first time I saw him, I was waiting for my caramel macchiato at the counter and he came up to me out of the blue.
“I’m Jerry. How are you?”
“Good, how are you?” Where is that coffee?
“I just wanted to tell you how beautiful you are. It’s a pleasure to see you here every morning.”
Forcing my mouth closed, and willing the flush away from my cheeks, I smiled politely.
“Um, thank you.”
What else could I say? I’m a mom. This sort of things doesn’t happen to me. Ever.
He nodded and walked back to his chair in the corner, and went back to his paper.
Weird. But pretty cool.
We still don’t know each other, but I say hello to him every morning now. And wonder what his story might be. But, I don’t ask. He nods from his corner, shaded from the sun, and goes back to his paper with a smile.
So, without looking up at Jerry, I sip my drink and work on my novel. Over the past two years, I’ve meandered through this story, getting to know my characters and discovering their lives in secrecy. Soccer mom by day, fatigued wordsmith by night.
Jennifer, I wrote her into existence, and she is now a person in my life. She is prettier than I, more wounded than I, and the sheer thought of my daily visits with her ever ending make me sad.
And Roshan. Oh, my Roshan. He was born from the taps on my keyboard, but really already existed long before that. He teeters on the edge of two worlds and of sanity, and I want to save him, but I don’t know if I can.
And now, they stare back at me from the screen, pleading for me to pull them out into the light. They are about…
Saris. Fast cars. Sandalwood paste. Jack Daniels.
They are raw. They are real…to me only. But not for long.
I keep my fingers tapping, polishing their world, crawling to the finish line carefully. The sun has faded to a late morning glow, and the Jerry-the-man-in-the-corner is talking politics with a guy dressed in sweats and reading glasses hanging from his neck. Neither one of them is drinking coffee.
Soon I’ll have to pack up and volunteer for center time at school. I will close my laptop and Jennifer and Roshan will go back into hiding. I’ll go back to quizzing spelling words and driving to soccer practice in the bright, setting sun. Until one day soon, neither they, nor I, will hide again.