Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Coffee, Anyone?

I sit in my favourite café in downtown Montreal, listening to the sound of bulldozers and tractors. The street is still under siege as construction workers lay new pipes and widen the sidewalks. I try to pick up the thread of music playing indoors but the singer is drowned out by the cacophony outside. Surprising that anyone else is here – but there are dozens of customers drinking lattés as they tap on keyboards or flip through papers. A few, like me, write in lined journals.

What you find here at 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday afternoon are usually students, the self-employed or the retired. We are each in our private worlds, focusing on the material in front of us as the aroma of freshly ground coffee beans wafts by. Our heads lift periodically to watch the human traffic streaming past the window.

The voices around me are a mixture of English, French, male and female - talking, laughing, telling stories. Friends meeting friends. A middle-aged woman wanders in alone, carrying a backpack. She heads straight for the desserts – an array of breads, cookies and cakes, mostly chocolate. I skirted temptation by ordering a blueberry scone with green tea. By the time I demolish the scone, my appetite is sated. The young dark-haired man across from me sips from his cup the same moment as me.

People aren’t so different from birds. We flock together. Even if we’re not connected, we like to observe, to be where the action is. As a writer I can’t afford to be isolated. I need to witness human behaviour first-hand – and hopefully to get inspired.

A fluffy flower seed twirls through the open window and past my table, air-borne by the breeze. It too seeks fertile ground. Maybe neither of us will find it in the remaining hours before sunset, but at least we’re here.

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