-Tammy T. Stone
In the movies, months of writing block can be erased by one epiphany. Then the words never stop until the bestseller is written. I’ve never wanted to write a bestseller, but I wouldn’t mind an epiphany once in awhile. I come to this café like it owes me an epiphany.
More people are buying condos than ever before. The era of the house is over. Even the less populated metropolises are filling up. Tokyo and Shanghai the models for our future. They live in height.
This is a traditionally Jewish neighbourhood, today an Italian and Philippino one. The café is a Canadian chain. Old Jewish men walk by outside in the torrential heat, and they won’t be replaced. Maybe that’s why they’re walking in slow motion.
A man near me reads the paper and uncontrollably taps his fingers against his mouth, flap flap flap. When something jars him, he looks up and soon resumes the tapping but on his ears. Then he snaps out of it again, takes a sip from his bottle of water, and this time does something definitive. He folds up his paper and leaves.
One man in blue Tommy Hilfiger shorts here, another in a short-sleeved plaid button down there.
The older I get, the harder it is to write the word Man. Men are older people, guys are my peers. But these men I see, they’re men. Which makes me a woman.
Another man holding a yellow pen is hunched over a small piece of paper. He spends a lot of time with it. It looks like a receipt. His muffin is finished. He’s left crumbs all over the countertop.
Continued observation – I can’t help but notice even as I’m doing it – is not only the mark of not being able to put the pieces together. Pathological observation is like a frenzied silent film, too fast to be anywhere but on the surface, spinning over and over, past the buried search for patterns, plaid yellow Tommy Hilfiger shorts receipt tap flap flap water. The future historian will see value in this. The future human, gazing into this now-frozen pile of today, represented as words on pink paper, needing to dig up a collective past for everyone left – this human will love today’s observations. But for today’s observer, this is starting to seem an awful lot like sacrifice, even if this is a maudlin way of putting it. And this: am I bowing at the altar of tomorrow?
“No, honey,” the old Jewish man seems to be telling me from outside. I can still see him; he’s moving that slowly, and he’s turned around to face me, his face grimacing from all the movement he’s forced onto his body. He seems to be saying: “Honey, only you are seeing tomorrow for today. When I used to make clothes from shmatas, rags, did I think, one day, these clothes will be vintage wear hanging from fasionable hangers in Kensington Market? No! Darling – may you live long enough to see your clothes be vintage. I speak about clothes but really I am only speaking about laughter. Laugh more. There is no sacrifice. There is only life.”
He turns back around, a smile deepening the lines on his face. I look down. This is the first time I’ve used a pen in months. Seeing the pen in my hand fills me with joy. Happiness in a Bic pen.
I come here to write all the time but I’m looking for the same thing as everyone else, which is love. I never stopped looking, and I’m not going to stop now. A part of me instinctively reaches for what my brain doesn’t grasp and what’s oozing out is hope and this surprises me.
Everything feels momentous, like I could leave this place and a stranger, any stranger, not in the far distant future but seconds from now, could find my writing, and imagine me as a mysterious person with hair a certain exotic way and a face that is like a topography of heaven, even if I describe myself as plain. He’ll see my pink paper, and my specific constitution in words, and situate me somewhere between a comic book heroine and a movie star. And he’ll want to know how it turns out for her.