A Life with Purpose
by Kit Pollard
Courtney's desk was just a little bit messy, exactly how she liked it. If it was too straight, if she'd been cleaning, she felt as though she must not have enough to do, like she had too much time on her hands. But if it was too messy, she felt out of control and a tiny bit crazed.
But today it was perfect: a few papers piled here and there next to her laptop, pens jumbled in a mug, CDs stacked (not too neatly) in the corner. She sat down full of energy and enthusiasm. She had work to do.
Fifteen minutes later, she was eyeing the stack of CDs in all their disarray. What was once casually scattered now looked haphazard and disastrous. Courtney fought the urge to begin to straighten: if she started cleaning now, she'd never get any work done. She'd been down this road before. Such was the writer's life.
Instead, she stood up, grabbed her notebook and her favorite pen, and before she could change her mind, headed out the door to the coffee shop. Once outside, she began to feel optimistic again. It was chilly out, cold enough for a scarf and gloves, but not so cold that the wind bit into her cheeks. The kind of chill that gave energy, instead of sapping it.
Cafe Guru was only a few blocks away from her tiny Eastport house, but it was the perfect distance given the weather. Opening the door, she was greeted by a burst of warm air and the deep, rich smell of good coffee. She inhaled deeply and took off her gloves.
Latte in hand, Courtney settled into a corner table and opened her notebook. Just like every time she came to the cafe to write (or every time she sat down to write, for that matter), she struggled to maintain her focus. The walls of the cafe were painted bright colors and lined with old books in shelves and the magazines scattered carelessly (though, it seemed, artfully) on tables beckoned. But Courtney prevailed.
She buried her head in her notebook and wrote furiously, pausing now and then only for a sip of coffee. She filled one page, then two, three and four. Finally, after five pages of writing, she allowed herself to take a breath, to sit back, and to look around.
Only then did she notice the stranger, sitting at a table opposite hers. She'd seen him there before, but never anywhere else around the neighborhood (which was odd, as everyone knew everyone in Eastport). She thought he must either be new in town, or extremely anti-social. He was on his cell phone, staring at a notebook of his own.
It was rude, she knew, but she couldn't help but listen to his conversation, even when she had to strain to hear. She pretended to flip through a back issue of Smithsonian magazine, but really the pictures and the words flew by her eyes in a blur of color and type.
"OK - OK I will let you know." His voice was full of exasperation, but was without any touch of disdain. He paused as his conversation companion spoke.
"I'm not really sure when it's going to start, but I promise I will send you an invitation. You'll be first on the list."
Again, a pause. Courtney was curious now, wondering who was on the other end of the line. An old friend? A pesky former coworker? An ex-girlfriend? A current girlfriend?
"Please tell me you're not serious. No, I don't know. We'll talk about this later, OK?"
"I can't even believe we're having this conversation. I call to tell you about a possible career milestone - my very first show - and it dissolves into a conversation about my love life? You're really too much. I have to go - really. I'll call you later, OK?"
By now, Courtney was more than intrigued. She was staring unabashedly (though unwittingly) and leaning forward, as though she was a part of the conversation, too.
"OK, yes, I said I'd call you later. I love you, too, Mom." He hung up with a sigh.
And Courtney laughed out loud, then clapped her hand over her mouth and flushed in embarrassment. As the stranger looked over at her, she stammered, "I'm so sorry! I'm a terrible eavesdropper and I know it's an awful habit, but I can't stop. But if it's any consolation, I've got a mother just like that. I really wasn't laughing at you. I feel for you."
The stranger's face relaxed and he laughed a little, too. "It's OK, that's what I get for talking on the phone in a public place. I should expect people to eavesdrop. It's actually kind of flattering," he smiled. "And my mom...yeah, I laugh about her a lot, too. Makes it easier to take. I'm Adam."
"And I'm the very rude Courtney. What kind of show?" Since she'd already given herself up as a serial eavesdropper, she might as well go for the gold.
Fortunately, Adam seemed to really not be particularly offended. He told her all about his new career as a photographer, showing her a few of the prints in his notebook. And Courtney told Adam all about her job as a writer and her crippling tendency to procrastinate, except, for whatever reason, when she was at Cafe Guru.
"Well, then, I guess I'll see you here again, probably," Adam said.
Soon, they'd both finished their coffee and it was getting dark outside. "I should head home," Courtney said, grabbing at her scarf, but not getting up to put on her coat.
"Yes, so should I," was Adam's reply.
After a sweet little moment of silence, both got up and got on their way. At the door, they said goodbye and see you soon.
Courtney's walk home was brisk and fun - she didn't even notice that the air had gotten colder. Her thoughts were all over the place, not jumbled, but racing without stopping. She was smiling.
When Courtney returned to her house, full of caffeine and enthusiasm, she looked at her desk suspiciously. With five pages written, she didn't need to sit back down. But with five pages written, wouldn't a clean desk be nice?