There are things we do to get ready to write. Personal rituals. Soothing routines. I guess mine would be the walk here. My street is always quiet in the morning, the bars closed, every once in a while a dog being walked, only the bodegas open. I walk to my writing spot and just let my mind go blank. I like walking. I like how I know each stretch of sidewalk, each block. I don’t think about much. The walk is maybe seven minutes, ten if I take it slow. It seems to quiet the noise in my head. Then I get here and I place my order (sometimes I’m one of only two people here) and I find my favorite table and set up.
I’m at the café now and I’ve been watching another woman get ready for her day. I’ve only been coming here for about a month, but I see her here on many mornings. Before she can start, she must neaten the room. This involves rearranging the café’s furniture to her liking. There are a great many chairs and little tables, three couches, and small table-and-chair sets scattered throughout. She will go around the large back room, moving a couch here, a chair there, setting up tables between them. She straightens tables and chairs, adjusts angles, stands to appraise her work and if it’s not satisfactory moves back in. I have to admit that—to me—it’s a little distracting. Then again, I’ve only been coming here for a month and who knows how long she’d made a habit of morning furniture rearranging. It’s her ritual. So I just sit here and wait for it to end (hope she doesn’t try to move the chair I’m sitting on)—at most it takes a half hour. She is an old woman, heavily made up and coiffed, not very friendly. I think it’s a bit strange. Not that I dislike strange.
Next week I might be giving up my new favorite writing spot, though I’m conflicted. Basically, it is imperative that I get to work at the time I am supposed to, and the subway line near this café keeps letting me down. What can be a twenty-minute trip door to door on one line can be up to forty-five minutes on this new one. But it’s completely unpredictable. I’ve given it 32 minutes three days in a row. One day I was early. One day I was exactly on time. One day I was late (and I practically ran from the subway station to my office, or I would have been later still). For someone with enough anxiety issues as it is, thank you, getting stalled in dark tunnels at every station between 8th Street and Midtown is agony. The local train will stop and so I’ll cross the platform to the express and then the express stops and the local goes—it’s infuriating. With attention being paid to the time I get in, all this means is I might need to return to my original café, though I like the mochas here so much better. But I think time is more important than mochas. And being near that express subway spot could gain me twenty-five whole minutes. That might not sound like much, but to me, at that prime point of inspiration, it is.
I’m really torn. I wish time wasn’t an issue. Or, better yet, I wish I could fly to work.