Picture it with me, won’t you?
A cafe table on a pedestrian-rich sidewalk, a minor capillary in the city’s bursting circulatory system. The street is quiet yet bustling, shaded from the summer heat by the long shadows cast from buildings that have been there for centuries, each facade so jaw-dropping in its ornate whitewashed glory that they all seem to blend together.
There’s a glass of chilled wine on the table in front of you. It’s excellent, a crisp white from Burgundy. You sip it aggressively, but still it sweats in the heat. Smoke wafts over from the table next door, someone’s unfiltered cigarette. Next door is an understatement – that table is mashed up against yours. And it’s several someones, countless unfiltered cigarettes, because everyone smokes here which is weird and frankly disgusting. But you wave it off because you are in Paris and what place on earth could be more romantic for a writer, more perfectly suited for finishing one’s beleaguered novel?
Your laptop is at 40% battery. Is there an power outlet? Well, no, there is not. This isn’t a Starbucks in Naperville, for god’s sake. Maybe you should’ve brought a paper notebook and pen. It would have been more romantic that way, anyway.
The goat cheese salad you ordered arrives. It looks as amazing as you expected. You snap shut your laptop (battery!) and focus your attention on the crispy breading and the warm, pungent filling which oozes out when you press it with your fork. You spear a bite which has crispy breading and gooey cheese and bread and greens all together. You close your eyes with pleasure as you chew.
That glass of Burgundy is empty. Would you like another? You would.
Long shadows grow longer and the happy hour crowd starts to drain out. The haze of smoke lightens. The table next door is empty. You flip your laptop open.
The cursor blinks. It’s taunting you. With each pulse: type here, type here, type here. You must lay words down. It’s the only way forward.
But nothing comes out. You scold yourself for squandering your privilege. You’re in the world’s most romantic city! You’re sitting at an adorable cafe! Your children are with a babysitter! You have a laptop with a third of its battery left and, hey – you have a novel to be written!
The waiter smirks at you, a good-natured smirk. You’re sticking out, and not only because you’re American. No one else here is writing.
You snap your computer shut. “L’addition, s’il vous plait,” you say as the waiter passes by. Check, please.
You shove your laptop into your bag and drift into the sweltering Paris streets, finding yourself pulled along in the undertow of a group of twenty-somethings who are giggling with gusto and smoking without abandon. They stop at a carousel, shrieking with ironic glee as they mount the painted ponies, fishing in their pockets for the required Euros.
As the carousel gains speed, their faces begin to blend together, up and down and around they go. Your children rode this same carousel earlier today, with a similar amount of joy. You smiled then, and you do now.