I was 22 and working at a coffee shop in Phoenix, living with my parents & trying to be a writer.
The customers at the coffee shop liked me. I had a good memory for details – not just coffee orders but food allergies and dog names and stuff like that.
One of the regulars was this guy named Arturo, a psychologist in his mid-fifties who was finishing up his first novel.
“What kind of stuff do you write?” he asked me one afternoon.
I said, shy, “Nothing really. Just like about life, I guess.”
“I see,” he said. “22 year-old girl stuff?” He started to laugh a little. “Boys, clothes, dating?”
I turned red, tried to laugh too. “Yeah, I mean. Pretty much.”
“Ah well, there’s room for that stuff too.” Hearty chuckle.
I made some non-committal laughing noises.
“I’d love to read your work sometime,” he said after a minute of that back and forth fake laughter. Then he ordered an oatmeal.
In a way it was a relief. Writing had started to feel like eating crackers with a dry mouth. I mean at best, my work was empty. At worst, it was bitter and hateful.
I went on a long walk around my neighborhood and while I was walking it hit me that I didn’t have to keep trying to be a writer. It was such a pure & exquisite moment – like my fist had been clenched to white knuckles for over a year and finally I was letting it open up and relax.
Anyway, a few months later Arturo went crazy and started living out of an ice cream truck.