Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Sippin' @ Starbucks: A Tragedy (Not Really)

I'm not a coffee snob. Seriously, I drink instant. Every day.

My glorious husband designates me "caffeine Philistine". He likes how that rolls off his tongue. I do too. My coffee habits drive him nuts. I do too.

On a given morning, I take my instant coffee with three ounces of that Hazelnut creamer that comes in vaguely phallic containers that you pick up in the dairy department at Safeway despite the fact that, as near as I can tell, they contain no dairy. None. Not a whiff.

I drink my instant coffee at my house.


Except yesterday.

Yesterday there was work going on at the house. Noisy work. I had writing to do. I needed internet accesss, relative calm, and coffee.

So, may Tim Horton forgive me, I did it.

I went to the Chapters on McLeod, the one with the Starbucks, and the WiFi... Make no mistake, I'm not proud, but it was soooo easy. I abandoned my home office, my Taster's Choice, my Hazelnut in a penile decanter. I sat at a high table.

I don't really speak Starbucks - but I've discovered that if you order a "large chai latte", nothing bad happens. They don't make you order your size in code (tea people don't need to get it), they don't ask for a temperature, and there is no foam to contend with ("with which to contend" for you sticklers).

I picked a nice table by the window, opened my laptop, took a sip and before I knew it I was deep into the work. I was IN THE ZONE. I dropped quickly into that deep spot where all that exists is the stuff in my head and the way it starts to appear on the screen for me to read...only it's not so much reading as watching the story unfold in real time (well - sort of real time - I'm a pretty crappy typist).

Yesterday the writer in my head was cranked on a large shot of chai. She was on fire.

I had planned a few pages of comic interlude but the "chai lady" in my head made it clear that this was the day my main character, Chuck, would contend with the death of his family while he floated in a fishing boat with his best friend.

It's 9:30 a.m. I'm probably a bit crazy looking on account of "did I really leave the house without brushing my hair?" Oh yeah, I did. I'm typing madly, sitting alone, at Starbucks...and I'm crying.

Oh yes...I'm crying.

At Starbucks.

I can actually see people watching me as I type. I could stop writing to tell them that "it's...just a book...just a scene" but I don't. Chai Lady's on a roll. Besides, if I don't dry for my characters, who will?

So I type and type until, damn, I'm outta Chai. When I finally stop I note that the piped-in music is Cat Stevens singing "Wind of My Soul". My eyelids are swollen, I'm still leaking tears, and a guy in Armani who ordered "skinny" coffee is giving me the hairy eye. It just doesn't get any better than this.

I sit back and reread. I cry again.

There are a thousand ways in which writing is hard. Sometimes it's hard to imagine that I'm fully responsible for the tragedies that bend or break sweet boys like Chuck. I think of his parents and twin sisters, how I put them in a rusty ice fishing buggy and plunged them into the icy cold of Lake Manitoba. The girls were so young. I didn't even give them a chance.

Sometimes it makes me wonder if I...

Anyway, today I'm back in my office. I could cry if I wanted, and no one would see me.

But it's not that day. The Taster's Choice is going down smooth and I've written this.

Not so hard.

Don't text and drive,