Billy’s basement office was a few blocks from the Garden State Diner—the coffee dive my group of college friends had renamed “the Garden.”
Four years of late night writing groups, hours of conversation, came flooding back when I slid into the booth, ordered a cup of coffee, and sat there next to the plate glass window staring into the parking lot.
I’d passed my old college and the diner on my way to the job interview. So, when Billy hired me, it seemed only natural to stop at the Garden to celebrate. But it only seemed like a good idea until I slid into the booth, until I heard the familiar fart of the leather, until I tasted and smelled the bitter staleness of the coffee. It was then that I realized, suddenly flushed with memories of loss, that I had never been to the Garden alone before.
In college, I was always surrounded by friends and lovers, writers and artists, historians and philosophers, each of whom, in turn, had given up on their “artsy fantasies,” as they told it. They had each settled on a sensible career, leaning heavily on family connections. Many went into law, some into finance, one into university administration.
It was just time to grow up, an old friend reasoned at my 35th birthday party. My remaining friends threw the party together—a last minute thing. My social life was growing thin. Children and family trumped all for them. A few more years into my 30s and all of my oldest friends would be strangers.
No one is saying you should stop writing, my ex-fiancé, Sarah, sighed during her annual birthday call. She’d moved to New Mexico to marry a podiatrist less than a year after she threw me out of our apartment. I would never give her what she wanted, as she told it.
I don’t want you to stop writing, Sarah repeated. I’m just worried about you. I mean, you never get paid for the work you publish. These literary journals send you publication copies as payment. And, I mean, selling used books and being broke all the time is just no way to live.
Sarah fell silent. I said nothing. She continued.
Why don’t you get a job writing? Swallow your pride; write for money. I mean, you’re so talented.
She let the compliment hang in the air for emphasis.
But listen, she cut off my attempted response, I have to get going. Randy (the podiatrist) wants his lunch. Happy birthday.
Fond college memories of the Garden clashed with fresh memories of my conversation with Sarah—just a week ago—as I sipped the bitter coffee, as I picked small bites from the bran muffin I’d ordered.
Ultimately, it was Sarah’s birthday phone call—the disappointment, the pity in her voice—that led to my late night search for writing jobs on Craig’s List, and to the small ad Billy had posted earlier that day.
Can You Write Great Business Letters?
Home business requires business writer. Email sample letters to firstname.lastname@example.org. Include phone number. Immediate Opening.
Subject Line: Attention: Billy
All reading is re-reading.