The Writers Voice
What had I done to cause God—or was it fate?—to put me where I was, sitting at my desk, facing the blank computer monitor that illuminated my dark room, unable to compose an original thought, incapable of creating a coherent sentence.
I held my head and began to weep. I can’t write any more! Can I ever reignite the flame that once raged within? I leaned toward my desk and slammed both hands on its surface.
Then I remembered the Dorcher Clinic, the place where my friend Joe went to recover from a similar affliction. Joe went on to complete his first novel, “The Man Who Thought Too Much”. That’s it! I would go to the clinic in the morning to seek help.
That night I thrashed around in bed, dwelling on my problem until I was ready to scream. Unable to fall asleep, I stumbled into the kitchen at 4:00 a.m. and brewed a large mug of strong coffee. After drinking the brew and downing a slice of whole wheat toast slathered with soft margarine and cherry preserves, I showered and put on my new jeans, sweat shirt, and running shoes, then as the sun began to rise, I jumped on my bike and pedaled three miles to the Dorcher building across the street from Pershing Square Park.
Downtown Los Angeles was quiet and peaceful as I locked my bicycle in a rack on the walkway in front of the clinic. With two hours to kill before the clinic opened, I strolled to Pershing Square and sat on a bench a short distance from a concession. I watched the sparse, early morning traffic prowl the streets and heard a young, portly concessionaire fling cabinets open while he readied the day’s refreshments.
The aroma of freshly brewed coffee drew me to the counter where I ordered a cup. While I savored my drink, I observed a slender, dark haired woman step out of a taxi and move smoothly, like a fashion model, to the stool adjacent mine. While she fumbled in her purse, she ordered the same thing as I, coffee, black, no sugar.
“Good stuff in the morning,” I said. I rarely began a conversation with a stranger, but her arrival so early in the morning--and of one so sophisticated--aroused my curiosity.
“Yes, wakes you. Do you have a light?” She bent toward me as she brought to her full, glossy lips a cigarette held gracefully between two slender, well manicured fingers.
“Sorry, I don’t smoke.” Yes, I was sorry, sorry I couldn’t share that moment and prolong the conversation.
“Here you are.” The concessionaire’s fat hand slapped a book of matches onto the counter.
She glanced at him, looked down, and took the matches. “Thanks,” she said.
I watched her strike a match and slowly bring its flame to the cigarette. She inhaled deeply while I remained silent. Then she turned to face me. “Do you know when the court opens,” she said.
She’s given me another chance. I looked at the concessionaires name tag. “Gustavo, do you know when the court opens?”
“Building opens ‘bout an hour. But court don’t start ‘til nine.”
“Good. I have to meet my attorneys early. We must review a few things before we see the judge,” she said, still looking at me.
Attorneys! More than one. Although I wanted to know everything I could about her, I didn’t want to seem inquisitive. “Guess we’re the only ones who got here so early,” I said.
“I couldn’t sleep,” she said.
Why couldn’t she sleep?
“Me neither,” I said.
“Why couldn’t you?” she said.
“It’s a long story.”
“We have time,” she said.
I was silent while she lifted her cup and sipped the coffee. Then I watched her bring the cigarette to her mouth, lift her head, and slowly inhale. She nodded her head as she exhaled, signaling me to continue.
“Well, it seems I’ve lost my creativity. I’m a writer, and when you loose your creativity, you’re like a singer loosing her voice.”
“Well said.” She lifted the cigarette to her lips and took a quick puff.
“And why couldn’t you sleep?” I said.
“Never mind me. Why did you loose your creativity? I heard Hemingway lost his before he committed suicide in the sixties. ”
It was clear she had done some reading. And she knew how to make me talk, which led to an easy conversation—I doing most of the talking, she asking questions and listening—about books and writers and my writing.
“. . . and when I was forty-nine, my best—“
“Oh, what time do you have?” she said.
“A quarter after eight.”
“Oh my! I should have met my lawyers at eight. They’ll be hysterical. I’m so sorry to break this up. What is your name?”
“Stephen. And yours?”
“I’m Rachel. Nice to meet you Stephen.” She reached out to touch my arm, and she began to walk away. “Have a good—“
“Rachel, could we do this again?”
She continued to walk. With her head turned toward me, she smiled and said, “My next court date is in a week, Thursday, same time.”
I waved to her and watched her disappear into the courthouse.
“Wonder what her story is,” Gustavo said.
“Me, too Gus.”
I pushed my empty cup towards Gustavo and dug a five dollar tip out of my wallet.
“See you next week,” I said.
“Cheers,” Gustavo said.
Suddenly I heard the roar of rush hour traffic and saw people bustling through the park on their way to work. The sun shined in a clear blue sky. I smiled and I felt alive, as one feels after going into the sunshine after a long, dark illness. It’s amazing what a chance encounter with a stranger can do for your creativity. I no longer needed the Dorcher.
Yes, I would come back the next Thursday. I walked quickly across the street, unlocked my bike, and raced home, full of ideas.
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