I started and stopped three different posts this week, rejecting one after the other. I was hopeful it was my fingers that were fatigued rather than my imagination typed out.
Rising up and down from my desk chair a half a dozen times in the span of an hour, I systematically bared the kitchen cupboards of all bad things—mini-chocolate Easter eggs, ginger snaps and Ritz crackers with peanut butter.
It was when I found myself grasping an empty chocolate chip bag, in despair that I’d eaten the last chocolate chip, that I realized I should probably get out of the cave. If inspiration had abandoned me, at least I might stare at the ocean from the fifth floor of the library while pondering my latest existential middle-aged writer’s angst. All that was left was white chocolate chips anyhow.
A short trudge later, distended belly and I were at the library.
After taking the elevator up to the fifth floor, I was bummed to see my usual favourite number one spot to sit was taken. I liked it a lot. It offered up the most expansive view of the harbour.
Spot number two it must be then, one of the two green leather chairs in the library café, Pavia.
I loped along the glass hallway from the front of the library, back past the elevators, to the the café, only to find that this second favourite locale, perfectly positioned for view of the café and the harbor, was also taken. A bored, underserving guy was sprawled on the soft, buttery, green leather chair—my chair. And a second chair beside that one was out of service, hidden beneath his heap of stuff.
Ever the cock-eyed optimist, I believed all was not yet lost.
The guy appeared on the young side, in his early 20s, which meant there might be a way to push him off. He might still be susceptible to the ‘mean mom’ look I’ve perfected through the years. Thus, I determined a surly stare from close proximity might be the ticket to move things along and get me my chair.
Seizing opportunity, I nabbed the empty bistro table beside him, and tossed a killer look his way. Then I settled in for the wait and maybe some inspiration.
Sometimes, I find writing amongst a crowd produces the results that solitude doesn’t. I was ready to channel the depths within in the hopes of those results. But no sooner had I pulled my computer from my knapsack when a man appeared in front of me.
“Pardon me, but are you that blogger-writer I met here the other week? I think you were here with your son and his girlfriend.”
I looked at the guy. I remembered him alright. We’d chatted in this same café, on my 55th birthday. Warren had made me a birthday schedule for the day, which included visits to my favourite haunts. Me enjoying a Pavia Americano and munching an Almond cookie in the library was on the list. And somehow, I’d struck up a conversation with this fellow on that day.
“Yes, that’s me. And are you the longshoreman who explained to me what a longshoreman is?”
He gave me a grin.
So here he was again, ready for chat #2, except I couldn’t talk this time. The clock was ticking, and I had a post to write, with not a clue what to write about.
I explained my predicament, and Mr. Longshoreman understood. Nodding away, he said, “Not to worry. We’ll chat up another time.” And then he disappeared from whence he came, a table across the way.
Back to my keyboard, very blank Word document and typing paralysis, my despondency was made instantly inconsequential when I spied action on the coveted chair. Yes. The fellow was collecting himself and his belongings. The chair would soon be mine.
Except it wasn’t meant to be.
Before I had a chance to sidle over and claim it, a woman who’d been sitting at another table, which flanked the other side of the chair, had slipped into the fellow’s emptied spot while her male companion was busy folding up his paper and grabbing his coat to take the now emptied second chair.
Geez. I’d no idea I had competition.
I watched them cozy up. In my spot. In my spot I’d been in the queue for next.
I could feel it coming, the crazy ‘stamp stamp double-stamp’ claim to my chair gaining momentum. What came next, I couldn’t help. I had to say it.
“Hey, I was going to nab those chairs,” proclaimed indignant me to chair-usurping woman and man.
“Oh, were you planning on sitting here?” innocently countered woman-winner of musical chair game I didn’t know I was playing.
I choked back my 9-year old response—That was mine! You stole my chair!! Gimme it back!!!—and fought to yank my adult self out before I stood up, stomped my feet and yelled the closer—I had first dibs on that chair!!!
And no, I wasn’t proud of these thoughts. But hey, they were real. And luckily, “Oh, it’s fine. You won them, fair and square,” is what I actually said.
They laughed. And phew on successfully stuffing my petulant brat self back in a box and locking her up tight. Proper, adult introductions were now both possible and in order, and I met Janice and Paul—of the library.
Fifteen minutes of get-to-know-each-other-better followed, a la East Coast, and then Janice got back to her work, Paul got back to his newspaper, and I got back to, well, new thoughts about how a frustrating day can be turned right-side-up by a trip to the library.
Must be more of that Halifax fairy dust, doing its thing. Course, eight months in, maybe it might just be me sliding into life that often includes random events like chatting up complete strangers at the library on a Wednesday afternoon or having a fellow I met a month back recognize me and say hello.
I looked out the window to the water. Life here sure had its bonuses, like a gorgeous library with easy sight-access to the ocean and chat-access to people, though it still seemed to contain those other annoying things, like frustrating days of writing not going as planned, not behaving as the grown up I am, or the consumption of an entirte week’s worth of junk-food calories in the span of the hour.
One day at a time.
And then, just as I settled in again, I was interrupted, once more, when yet another strange man appeared in front of me, as if by magic. Dressed in business attire, he was obviously at the library for a meeting of some sort.
“Estelle?” he asked.
Janice looked from her comfy chair over to me and caught my eye, and after the man had moved on, we laughed across the way with each other.
“Thought maybe Estelle was your middle name,” she joked.
“Nah. I just have that kind of a face today.”
Or maybe I have that kind of life today.
By then the time was getting on to five o’clock. I’d begun my blog post, albeit later than usual, but I was satisfied to know where it was going, and my belly was getting grumbly for real food. So I packed up my stuff and said good-bye to Janice and Paul.
When I got to the elevators, directly across from them and on the floor, sat five motley-attired teens, three guys and two girls.
Their fashions and hair-styles seemed interchangeable, floppy mops of thick hair covering eyes and faces, with enough layers of jeans and hoodies and jackets and hats on their bodies to clothe probably eleven teens, not five. Their jaws went up and down with wads of chewing gum, and between chomps, odd comments I didn’t understand were strewn out, along with laughs.
I waited for the elevator. When the doors opened, I walked into it and found the bottoms of my boots gripped by scads of elastics all over the floor. Turning to press the button to the ground level, I stood off to the side, and as the doors began to close, five elastics came zinging in for the ride down with me, along with the guffaws of the five teens. Reminded me of things I used to do, and I laughed all the way down to the bottom floor.
Maybe this kind of day is just my new normal.
Most Interesting Music Selection courtesy of Spencer Clerk
Yma Sumac – Taita Inty (Virgin Of The Sun God)
Yusef Lateef – Snafu