The brown sign above the door reads “Aroma” and next to it is a drawing of a coffee cup with steam rising from it. We walk in, looking a bit delirious as always. In the morning, the aroma here, instead of the one implied, is always that of lemon-scented Pine Sol. It’s 8 o’clock. We sit at the same round table with tired eyes, tired hands, and tired thoughts, having been typing all night. What for?
Our waitress approaches—the same one with washed-out red hair—looking more tired than we are. Tired from working in this place her whole life. She must be in her forties now. She smiles like someone forced to say “cheese” for a photograph and comes to confirm that we will be having “our usual.”
“Two black coffees and plain bagels with cream cheese, toasted? Right?
We both nod. You grunt something that sounds like a “yes, please” in addition.
I stare out the window. There is a young couple walking by, holding hands. The two of us have stopped doing that long ago. They are dressed all in black with their long unbuttoned coats flying behind them. Hair loose, wavy, and unruly, down past their waists, also flying in the wind. They look like a cross between hippies and goths—not quite sure which way they want to be different. They are staring straight ahead, not talking, walking fast, with immense purpose. Seemingly unaware of being on this street, in this city, in this country, on this planet. As if they are from another world. I wonder where they are going; what their story is. No, no more stories. I’m tired of stories. There are already too many of them running amok in my mind and fist fighting one another to be written.
The waitress brings our orders. You resume the conversation we were having out in the street.
“It’s like this table, this cup, the rounds you are making in your coffee by stirring in the sugar: all circles. I mean…sure, you can measure the radius, the diameter, the circumference, but you still never know where the circle begins or ends. Mathematical formulas are imperfect and irrelevant,” you say.
Everything is always about circles.
You then proceed to draw a circle with your pen on the paper tablecloth. “See, but when you first create a circle, it does have a beginning and an end. I started here and I ended there. But when a circle is made…when it exists, you don’t know where it begins or ends. It’s infinite.”
I just nod, not having the words to adequately respond, having spent all my words at night, writing. It seems, also, having heard the circle theory so many times before, I’ve lost the fascination for the lack of beginnings or endings.
You go on: “That’s how life is. It’s cyclical. You often wind up right where you started from and then start again. But you never know where the actual beginnings or endings are. They might not even be birth or death.”
You stay quiet for a few seconds, think, and then: “I mean…the earth is round…it’s a three dimensional circle. When God created it he must have started somewhere and ended somewhere else. But you don’t know where that is. And now the earth, in existence, has no official starting or ending point. It’s infinite.”
Infinite. You always liked the word infinite. I usually prefer eternal. Infinite always carries a mathematical connotation in my mind. All I can think of when I hear it is: ∞.”Eternal” is better. We seldom agree about words. That’s the thing: we always use different words. But otherwise have similar themes, ideas, plots, characters. Work the usual nine to five – or later – and then sit at our laptops and type through the night. Sometimes looking up at each other and wondering what the other is writing. Wondering if it’s the same sentence with different words. We should spend less time together—it’s like we share a brain. Both of us think that. I can tell.
“Where does inspiration come from?” I ask
“Memory,” you say, “of what has passed, of what will come to pass, of what didn’t happen, of what could happen. That too is memory,” as if you are mentally writing as you speak. All your words so carefully selected before you let them escape your larynx. I wish I could do that. Instead, my spoken words tend to tumble out of my mouth, never being so meticulously prepackaged.
“Or from people on the street,” I offer and look out the window again. Crowds—all rushing to work; all in suits. Men in ties. Women in skirts and stockings. Everything looks so perfect, almost mathematically constructed. We are no different. We might only think we are, but we dress the same, look the same, have similar jobs. Just out there tying to make a decent living. Put on the same fake smiles and kiss our bosses’ asses when necessary.
“But nor for long,” you would probably say.
We are not different. It’s just that we actually talk and write about what everyone else only thinks about and keeps to themselves. Or maybe we only think that.
You are looking out at the street as well. Then jotting something down. Always jotting something down.
“Never let an idea pass you by,” you say.
Why not? Ideas walk right by me every few seconds and I just let them go.
“What do you do it for? You asked me once, considering the many sleepless nights.
“Catharsis,” I said.
“I’m going to write the next masterpiece,” you said.
You still have a novel that’s been “in the process” of being published for the last three years. I’ve never seen it. I’m not allowed to.
“I don’t show anyone anything until it’s completely finished,” you said.
Coffee is almost done. It’s time. Hurry up please. It’s time. To go back out into the whirlwind of “Suits on Broadway. You and your navy and black striped tie walking North to the Accounts Receivable department of one publishing company, and I, in skirt, stockings and black stilettos, South to the Accounts Payable department of another publishing company. Both of us thinking, hoping, that merely by working at such companies we will have a foot in the right door. But numbers have nothing to do with words. And afterwards: back together again for a few brief kisses, meaningful glances and words. Remembrance of things still existing. After all, one always needs memory for inspiration, you’d say. And then it’s pounding the shit out of the keyboard once again and sleeping for a few hours at most.
Before getting up to leave, we meet each other’s gaze for a few seconds. If you were writing this, you wouldn’t have used the word “gaze.” You would’ve used something else. We remember for a moment that words aren’t always necessary and stare into the circles in each other’s eyes. Not knowing where they begin or end. That’s infinity.