I feel for the man across from me. He is trying to write. He sits at a low table looking thoughtfully out the widow at the rain, every now and then sipping his coffee. He scrawls his words in ballpoint on a compostable brown napkin. When the words come, that is.
It is hard to write with the two elderly men sitting nearby, chatting. One is quieter, humbler. He is somewhat scruffier, his long, white goatee untamed, his red check shirt rumpled.
His companion, however, is loud-spoken enough to ensure those nearby know how smart, how well travelled, how knowledgeable he is. He pauses mid-pronouncement, smiling serenely, wondering at the richness of his own intelligence.
His navy striped shirt gleams silkily and is ironed to precision. His white hair is elegantly coifed. His chocolate ankle boots impeccably polished.
When I sit down, he is orating on the strength of Obama, the relative impotency of the Tea Party, bestowing upon his friend his authoritative assuredness about the outcome of the current political situation in the US.
He answers his phone and has a brief conversation with someone who would like him to look for something at home. When he hangs up he smiles self-indulgently at his friend and, shaking his head, says “I’m too polite.”
As we writers and coffee-drinkers sit nearby, captive, he discusses an array of different topics: the incompetence of car service technicians, his excellent home insurance, the travesty that is travel agents these days, his recent, and perfect if he does say so, trip to Italy.
As they rise to leave, the sigh of relief from my fellow writer is almost palpable.
I only have time to think that I’ll miss the inspiration before a long-haired dishevelled man pauses beside me to ask if he can share the side table with me.
I smile graciously.
He smells of wet wool and cannabis. He places two battered books down beside his teacup. A booklet on Castro and the Tsaddick of the Seven Wonders. I’ve never heard of it and struggle to find any descriptions online.
He is quiet, though, aside from the intermittent stretching and coughing.
Outside, a man passes by, his black hair and his clothes – dark sweat pants and a red and white flannel shirt – dripping with the drenching rain. He carries running shoes in his hands and his bare feet splash through the dirty puddles in the intersection.
I continue to sit, seeking shelter from the rain, waiting for new characters to cross my field of vision, characters that intrigue and inspire.