I write just like I knit
7:35 a.m. at the coffee shop
I write just like I knit, with different coloured wools. I’m careful not to drop any stitches or leave holes in my knitting. I always have an imaginary pattern in mind: a jacket collar or sleeve. I wait for creative inspiration. It sometimes takes its time but it always fills up my blank page in the end.
I might write about the man who’s seated next to me, waiting for his wife; or about Carole, whose birthday is today. Humans are lively chatterboxes and it’s relatively easy to knit clothes that will suit them. I listen, I look around and I take notes on my bright screen. Even the smallest bird could understand that I am interested in people or, at the very least, in those who dare to leave their hideaway and have something to say.
Lately, I’ve had a vision of a finished novel; one I have typed with my own fingers. I picture it in my mind like a huge belly ready to give birth. In my mind, I hear complete sentences and mismatched chapters in need of fresh air.
It feels as though it has been a long pregnancy and I look forward to giving birth. I would like to be in front of a large mirror to be able to see what I am carrying. An angel’s wing? A new way of writing? The sudden burst of beautiful ideas? A primal scream giving a voice to my writing?
I rid my mind of all the burdensome memories and live in the everyday moment of life, where luck sows its golden seeds. My hands are empty and I don’t even have a draft in mind. I wait and let spontaneity and creative intuition take their course.
A different man arrives at the table next to me, sits down and smiles at me. He politely asks how I’m doing and what I may be writing about. How can I explain to him that I don’t really know? I could tell him that I’m giving birth to a few New Year’s resolutions, but I prefer to keep quiet. I return his smile. He gets up and heads for the counter, where he picks out a pastry.
He returns to his table with a coffee mug overflowing with thick, white foam and a fresh raspberry pavé. I congratulate him on his excellent choice of pastry. Fresh raspberries are quite rare in the middle of January. The man smiles at me again and replies that he loves life with a capital L. How amazing!
This type of invigorating encounter is one of the reasons why I get out of the house. His name, G. Ladouceur, suits him to perfection. In French, “G. Ladouceur” sounds like “I have sweetness” or “I have softness.” He spent his life working for the bank Desjardins, happy like a king in his court. He’s been retired for 10 years and cares for his mother. In his spare time, he builds, paints and varnishes cute little goldfinches, blue jays and ruby-throated hummingbirds, which he offers as gifts. He enjoys travelling south. He’s been to Cuba more than 15 times!
–“Yuck! The food is horrible there,” I hear the old me say in my head. Mr. Ladouceur goes on and tells me he’ll be leaving the Quebec winter behind in a week to spend two full months at the Paseo el Prado hotel, in Havana.
–“Incredible!” replies the new me, as gentle as a domesticated rabbit. Adios, amigo!
I enjoy writing in a coffee shop. I don’t really understand why or how, but I’m certain that being surrounded by people helps me concentrate. I often get the feeling I am sitting in a translucent bubble, sheltered from discordant noise. I love the mornings I spend writing while finishing two or three coffees. I rarely eat before I finish a letter, unless I skipped dinner the night before. When my stomach starts to rumble, I usually polish off a cheese croissant while typing away and then “case closed,” like my 10-year-old granddaughter would say.
This morning, asleep in the dawn’s cold light, I dreamt about this infant book growing in my womb. In the dream, I caressed each and every single one of its pages; I turned them, taking extra care not to hurry the paragraphs or weigh them down unnecessarily with incongruous adverbs. The text needs to breathe and drink in the meaning of each word. I also had to think about the accuracy of the chapter titles; gently harmonizing each story with the veracity of its twists and turns.
A chapter cannot look like an out-of-season vegetable soup or overcooked pasta au gratin. The backbone of a text can’t lose its poise or waltz aimlessly from left to right. The direction must be as straight and solid as the Eiffel Tower. I climbed it myself and I can attest to its solidity.
“I eat my hand and save the other one for tomorrow.” It’s a local expression that is especially timely because I’m famished! They opened a McDonald’s in my town, right in front of a grocery store and kitty corner to a drugstore. When I went past this McDonald’s the other day I was reminded of the times I brought my kids there for birthday meals. I take it as a hint to make a sort of pilgrimage to the golden arches in honour of these happy times that I remember so well. The kids would each order a Big Mac, fries and soft drink; I would always get the Filet-O-Fish with tartar sauce, fries and cola.
I walk into our local McDonald’s suffering pangs of hunger. It’s not very busy for a lunch hour. To order, I pretty much have to tap my own selection on one of the large computer screens. I get it wrong a few times and a very young lad offers to put my order in for me. I don’t take the fries, but I order my Filet-O-Fish, the one with two filets, and a cola. It is totally delicious! The open kitchen is now occupied by young teenagers at work, something that was utterlyunthinkable at the time we came here to eat here (1975-1980).
So, dear readers, I thoroughly enjoyed my lunch and I will go back soon for another delicious, lightly breaded fish burger served in a gently steamed bun with a tasty tartar sauce. It’s so good it’s hard not to lick your fingers!