I'm at Z'otz, the dark coffee shop uptown. The girl behind the counter has her hair swept back in a blue bandana, she's wearing an undershirt that has a gray, worn look like maybe it's been washed too many times, or maybe not at all, she's got glasses, black pants and a wallet chain. She's playing punk music that has a harmonica intermingled with it. Somehow those two sounds work, like a funny couple that you wouldn't imagine being good together. There are condoms in a fishbowl on a side table by the front door, and there's a panda bear sitting on top of it. So to get a condom you must move the panda. You must want it that bad, the protection. Or you must really want a panda.
I don't know how to describe this building. I wish I could. I wish I could describe everything I see in a way that would make every detail fascinating and graceful, like the hand I saw resting on a open car window the other day. This truck passed me and I didn't see the passenger's face, just his hand resting on the window. The color of his skin and the cut of his forearm muscle made me think that he worked in the sun, and that hand had been working all day, and maybe had been waiting for hours to rest itself on the door of the truck and feel the breeze of the open window. Such a small beautiful thing a man's hand can be.
It's the next day. I had to leave the coffee shop last night because the wallet chain girl and a friend went outside to smoke and the urge to bum a cigarette was so great that I couldn't think about anything else, couldn't even write anymore. Fucking addiction. So anyway, I took myself out of the situation entirely and felt better when I took deep breaths before I went to sleep last night.
The kids are at Chris's house for two weeks. What am I like without them to take care of? I don't know. I think I'm going to write a lot and go to a lot of meetings. I know, I'm a bucket of rad. Actually, I plan to take super, uber care of myself and try to have a good time. Without smoking, drinking, or sex (this is to be followed by delirious laughter). There will, however, be lots of dirty Rock N' Roll, swearing around the house, and watching of rated R movies.
I started a story a while ago, and the characters are Michael and Betsy. I don't know where it's going, or if it'll be a short story or a book or what, but I like writing it. I just started writing about Michael sitting outside a coffee shop between two smokers. He's the character I've always had in my head, the one with dark hair and Hershey brown eyes, and who's name changes depending on how I feel - the one who's grown up with me and who I've had the hots for since I was seven. Michael's told himself that he wants to stand outside for the fresh air, but the truth is he really wants a cigarette and he's just quit.
So has his friend Betsy. She walks across the parking lot, lighting one up, not realizing he's there. She's a pretty thing with long, strawberry blond hair, wide hips and a sideways smirk. Michael sees her and shakes his head. Somewhere inside he knows that he's in love with her, but he's not thinking about that right now. Right now he only knows that he wants a cigarette.
"You suck," he tells her when she gets close enough.
She frowns, not knowing where the insult has come from, but then she sees him, and rolls her eyes. She takes a drag. "I had a stressful morning."
"It's always a stressful morning before coffee." He sets his latte on the ground and holds out his hand for a cigarette. "If you're cheating, so am I."
There's more to this. That morning Betsy helped her sister who's a single mom, who just had a garage sale hoping that she could make enough cash to cover her electricity bill that's overdue. And her exhusband showed up and began taking things saying that Betsy's sister couldn't sell them. I don't know who this story is about yet. Is it about all of them? Is it from Betsy's point of view or her sister's? Or is it from Michael's point of view? Right now it's all over the place. Something will emerge from it, I think, some sense of order. This is all very rough.
Betsy pulls a cigarette out of the pack and holds it out for Michael. She watches him take it and thinks about what a small beautiful thing a man's hand can be.