I still sleep wearing earplugs, but it’s the habitual practice of a light sleeper, not the need to drown out the noise, shut out the excitement and anger and stress and the going, going, going…
Despite the little blue pieces of foam, I can still hear the morning’s birdsong and occasional footsteps going up and across and around the floor above me. They’ve been quieter recently and I think that has something to do with the young couple – wafish but pleasant girlfriend – that recently moved out. Doors open and close, someone takes their trash outside, but during the day the building is warm and silent and still. I haven’t been able to write.
I try not to wear headphones during the day because being present when not in an artificial work environment is an absolute necessity. “Don’t make eye contact, they will talk to you,” one grad student informed me, without knowing that conversation and sharing energy, most of the time, is part of what makes my world go around, and allows the universe to exist in its simultaneous vacuum and burst of sparkling energy which, if visible, would somehow resemble the stars I see when rising from forward bends too quickly.
Without headphones and in the sunlight corner of the cafe, I saw him come in: bold, embroidered pashmina scarf, wool coat, an affect like Ian McKellen with an oversized hipster beard. “Here,” he handed the barista a small Greek pastry, and proceeded to flamboyantly enthuse about its quality in Greek-accented English. “I used to live in Astoria,” I ventured, and in a grand sweep, he took my hand and said “Well, you must know how to do Greek dancing,” throwing out Greek words with a flourish. When my steps were off, he chided, “Oh, honeyyy, you didn’t learn to dance there?” and proceeded to trill out all the Greek places and islands he had visited.
“I’m a writer,” I added, to season his discussion of painting and archangels and icons and work. His entire whirlwind of creativity, eccentricity and absolute living of life shone through as clear as day. Unprompted, he commanded, “There is no such thing as writer’s block,” his heavy grey brows knitting together under light and shiny blue eyes, in total contrast with his dark grey, feathered fedora. “You sit down and you sit there and you write until something happens. Just look around you, take inspiration from anything. Write about a snowflake, write about the weather. Find inspiration. And when that fails, ask John the Apostle for help.” I looked back at him, quite serious myself, “Well, thank you for that. I needed to hear it this week.”
“If all I manage to do is paint a landscape, a background, I’ll do it, and that’s something, but you do not have writer’s block, you can always write.”
With a sweep of his scarf, he looked up at the barista, “I hope I don’t look ridiculous, but, oh well.” “You look fabulous, I told him,” and the barista added “He’s the best-dressed man in Pittsburgh,” as he sung out his goodbyes and left the cafe.
With a sweep of my fingers, I opened a new window on my computer. There are always worlds to put onto the blank screen, and that cursor was no longer mocking me as it blinked, metronome-like, waiting, listening, watching. An errant, minute couple of snowflakes flew around outside the window even though the sun was starting to appear. I shoved my headphones into my bag, and began to type.
“I didn’t need these things. I didn’t need them.”