Ben: Writing in a Cafe

You walk into the Kaladi Brother’s Cafe on Northern Lights Boulevard and order a 16 ounce latte.  Yum.  It costs four dollars and a fifth goes in the tip jar.  It’s snowing hard outside.  Everyone in here is wearing a hat.  Those who speak are close in and quiet with their companions.  The steam machine and the music build a hum around you—the kind of white noise that matches the snow outside.

You sit at the curved bar with one other guy.  He looks at his phone.  He’s reading.  People watching movies don’t have that bright-eyed intensity readers have.  It’s time to write.

Your hands have been suffering from poor typing practice.  You pull a brace on your right hand just before the barista brings over your drink.  Thanks.

Now you have to earn five dollars.  What are they worth, the words you write?  Can you put a value on them.  Sure.  A dollar a page.  Write a page for every dollar you spend on coffee.  You may never earn it back, but you get to enjoy the nutty drink.  Man, they make a good coffee here.  This is no longer just about writing.  This is about living a life you have chosen instead of one thrust on you.

But you have about three quarters of an hour before they expect you home.  The snow is blowing across the road outside.  It’s freezing to the windshields out there and slicking the roads.  Better put those aching fingers on the keyboard and bang out some pages.  You’re buying them.

Then there is the tuition.  You pay to learn about writing in your MFA program.  You pay for your computer.  Your wife agreed to the program and the computer because you were going crazy before you had time to write.  That snow out there would kill you if you didn’t write.  So you drink the coffee and you try to write four pages.  The tip is a gift to the world.  Any tip is a gift to the world.  But mostly, you don’t spend money writing.  You spend time writing.  You write to stay alive in the crazy, white world you live in.

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