I was caught writing. I hate being caught writing. I like to think that things write themselves. I’d like people to think that things write themselves.
“What are you doing?”, was the question.
“Planting seeds”, I thought to myself; “writing”, I answered.
Now, I don’t like being scrutinized, especially not in a way that makes me self-conscious. As a photographer, that probably makes me a hypocrite– but I have no problem with hypocrisy.
“Oh, I don’t know…”, I answered. It is the best I could come up with.
I know that every poem and expressive prose comes with its own self-referential weather report, and those details are important. Why it is always raining in a poem, I don’t know– but I’m glad that it does rain in poems. Today it did not rain, but in my mind, as I think upon the conversation I had with the stranger whose name I do not know, it is raining. It is raining outside the warm cafe, and the glass is frosty. I can see the street through the storefront.
This is all in my mind, though.
“You don’t know what you’re writing about?”
I did know what I was writing about. Remembering and recognizing, is what I was doing. And I was doing exactly what I thought I was doing, planting seeds. I only plant seeds in my notebook. I am afraid to write in my notebook as I am afraid I will run out of pages. Then, I let the seed grow in my mind, and I can never run out of pages on my laptop. Unromantic, I know, but why be romantic about everything?
“No, not really, I’m just scribbling”, I said.
My little notebook was taken out of my hands. I felt panic crawl through my body and leave through my breath. It’s a momentary panic, like when you’re caught naked. And you don’t really care if you’re naked if nobody can see your face. I needed a place to put my face, and I put it behind my palms. She read something old, something I didn’t remember having written. She read it aloud. I pretended to be disinterested, but I listened.
“He grew an entire salad on his farm…?”, her voice trailed off into a question.
“Yeah, I was on this farm once and the guy was showing off his vegetables.”
“Shut up”, she said and continued reading. “The rooster looked about ready to deliver a speech…”
“Isn’t that true about roosters? I read that somewhere, I don’t remember where. Isn’t that clever?”, I asked.
She ignored me and turned the pages. She went to the beginning and she stopped. It was a page dated 2nd May, 2011. She read something aloud. I could feel my clothes peel away. By the time she was done, I was thoroughly naked. And thoroughly embarrassed. I hid behind my hot chocolate and looked at her.
“Narayan, the time-traveller who sells weed…”?
“Yeah, he comes and goes out of people’s lives, and he couches his philosophy gently within the folds of your high.”
“The road that heads west leads to freedom, and the road that heads east leads to freedom too…”?
“Yeah, the west frees your body and the east frees your soul.”
“Shut up!”, She said. “You ruin your words with your words.”
She strayed over lines from my notebook, rather erratically. Some she read aloud, some she kept to herself. I replied to the ones she read aloud. I was having a conversation with myself. And I had some explaining to do.
“Let me read what you were just writing”, she said.
Panic, that old fiend. Here he was, knocking at my door once again.
“Oh, don’t read that”, I said. I grabbed the book away from her quickly. It tore in half. I was embarrassed, but I was already naked. “I’m sorry”, I said. She apologized too. She said she should have never taken the book away from me without asking in the first place. We drank our chocolates in silence. When she got up to leave, she just smiled, and left. I’m sure she thought I was writing about her. Didn’t she want to know what I had written?
I picked my torn notebook off the table and turned to the page I was on before she’d come along. I read what I’d last written. It was a seed I’d planted for a picture I had taken during the wander that had led me to the cafe. It was of a lady laying naked, on a bed placed in a storefront.