When my son takes a nap, I write at the Parisian cafe table we found a few years ago and put in a corner of our living room, facing the window. But whenever the babysitter comes, I head to my other workplaces.
If our local library isn’t open, I go to cafes that have wifi. I get an espresso I won’t drink (I don’t like coffee, but it’s the cheapest thing on the menu), and sit and work and look up from time to time to observe the world.
Writing in a Parisian cafe seems like it would be romantic. But the cafes I go to rarely have much mystique to them. They’re practical places, where people from all sorts of backgrounds and stories can stop and have a drink or get a bite to eat.
Then again, I guess many of the great writers of the past who lived in Paris went to cafes like mine; they didn’t have a lot of cash to throw around at expensive places. When I think about that, a little thrill runs through me. Though my persistent writer’s block when it comes to novels makes me wonder if I’ll ever be able to even attempt to something remotely worthy of that great heritage. Still, it’s wonderful to be here, watching people coming and going.
It’s funny that I used to write at cafes so rarely. The challenge of having a baby and trying to work has made me discover a wonderful new pleasure.
The only downside is the cigarette smoke that inevitably floats in from the terrace. Sometimes I come home covered in it, my hair stinking like an ashtray, and I think my husband wonders if I’m cheating on him with a chain smoker and not going to work at all.
There have been many magical moments in these “offices” of mine. But nothing so far has beaten the one I’ve just experienced. About an hour ago, I sat down in this cafe after a morning doctor’s appointment, took out my tablet and nifty bluetooth keyboard and started to work (the babysitter was still booked for two hours). Just now, I heard insistent chirping very close to me. I looked up and saw a finch in a birdcage that someone had put on a nearby table.
For a reason I still can’t understand (being hard of hearing and trying to eavesdrop on a foreign language are major disadvantages), a group of colorful-looking older men (think Tony and pals from “The Sopranos” — not sure that the two groups share anything but fashion sense, though) have brought in two bird cages with a finch in each one.
All of the waiters, as well as a woman who’s sweeping the floors, have asked them about the birds, but don’t seem to mind their presence. I’m glad. The men are sitting behind me, discussing whatever it is they’re discussing, and the birds are chirping away, the one on the table much more loudly than his friend, whose cage is on the floor. They’re some of the best company I’ve ever sat near.
It occurs to me, as I write this, that maybe I’m not unlike those birds. In a cage of my own construction, but happy, singing out (writing), trying to balance on my perch as the world turns around me.
….And now, back to work!