Today was the last day of vacation (i.e. sustainable unemployment). The hours passed quickly, mostly in the attic of the Grand Lake Smokeshop where I had been sequestered by J.
Laid out before me on the green card table were the tools for an easily distracted writer: a notebook, coffee, a copy of Cucina Italiana, and the imperative to write 4 pages. And no crumpling work, or "you're out!" insisted J., "it's store policy." The coffee was black, the notebook lined, and the magazine boring, so it was not hard to write a story, however inconsequential. It is the act of writing that matters when you have writer's block, and not the art, for sometimes I think too hard about the art, the way the words sound, so that I don't make any sounds.
The attic overlooks the rest of the Smoke Shop - its racks of Sugarbabies and Almond Joys gleaming under red neon glow, glass cases stocked with Exquisitos, Fuentes, Romeo y Julietas, etc, and wall plastered with old tobacco ads ("Light an OLD GOLD for young ideas!"), Elizabeth Taylor's well-coiffed Technicolor countenance, Edward Hopper's lonely patron sitting in an all-nite coffeeshop, Marilyn Monroe before she became JFK's paramour - and from my privileged viewpoint, I could see J behind the counter, where he sold cigarillos, Butterfingers and Black Book between paragraphs of Gray Brechin's Imperial San Francisco: Urban Power, Earthly Ruin.
Sometimes he would inquire about my progress and now, during the last hours of the last day of my vacation, he kisses my shoulder. This is the rest of our life: together, working but close, working close, one checking on the other's progress, pecking on each other's shoulders. It should be claustrophobic, for one or the other or both, for younger J or younger P, but these are the most present concerns: a job, a new apartment by International Worker's Day, and making the first sounds, the first starts, of a story.