Writing in public is … well … public. I wasn’t altogether sure I approved of that. Was I daft thinking I could just tuck myself in a corner and no one would notice me? I had claimed the only table at the Tik Talk Cafe that had a smidgen of privacy. First table to the left. Right inside the door. Window view. And…the best part… hidden behind the coat rack. As long as people wore coats (ten months of the year in Toronto I don’t exaggerate…well maybe a little) I was hidden…or so I thought.
This sudden need of mine for privacy is very ironic. I’ve always railed against my invisibility. Being the tenth child of twelve I swore no one saw me from the first. It wasn’t true but at age two who cares? Invisibility just seemed to follow me around … or did I plunk myself in places where I was guaranteed not to be seen…? Like working in a law firm. That perfect breeding ground for arrogance, bad manners and rudeness. I wasn’t seen for fourteen-and-a-half years…until I climbed on top of the conference room table at my going-away party flashing a “Union” sign a-la-Norma Rae. Then there were those six years with the murmuring-ex-husband where I became so transparent that he forgot sometimes he was even married!
My therapist told me one time that the definition of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” was that a person “sees” you. (I wonder if Aretha understood that all along?) I had to do something. So I went to Rapp Opticals that Toronto haven of hipness. I told them my woeful tale of a lifetime of invisibility. They understood. I was not the first. Red glasses. I was seen…if not always respected.
It was my regularity at the Tik Talk Cafe that invited people into my corner. I went every day. I had to. I would never meet my-demanding-but-supportive editor Beth’s schedule if I didn’t. After the brief glow of satisfaction and pats on the head for finishing the first draft, she was firmly persuasive that I had to take this writing business a whole lot more seriously. …It was my job. She implied. Full time. Overtime and weekends required.
The cats got used to my 10 a.m. departures. They’d watch while I packed up for my day at my Tik Talk office. Laptop in its padded brown bag. The color-coded-folder full of letters for whatever country I was traveling to that day. Chewing gum…it eased acid reflux (thank you Dr. Oz). A book in case I got tired of my own writing. The only time the cats blocked my exit was when I forgot—accidently—to scatter their good-for-their-teeth Greenies on the floor. Once crunching…they didn’t care. I could come/go/stay whatever. As long as I was home by 5:00 p.m. to feed them again. Are all cats so fickle?
Donald was the first to ask. It had been a whole year since I claimed my coat-rack table. Tapping away on my little silver laptop…getting words on paper. We were two of the regulars. Fixtures. Tik Talk Family. I had overheard enough of his esoteric, intellectual, quatro-lingual (Hebrew, German, Arabic, English) conversations to be properly intimidated. More often than not I didn’t understand a word he said.
How could I spin my story? Make his asking worthwhile the effort? I didn’t want to reveal too much. Still felt too protective of my stories to go that public. The Letters. I would tell him about my mother’s archival expertise. Emphasize that I was using “original” documentation. It would appeal to his academic sensitivities. It worked. But I knew he’d be back … with more questions…