The usual hours and the usual parking spot and the usual teenage boys behind the bar who take bets on what flavor of fruit juice I’ll be drinking today; if I’ll accept the aperitivo or no; if I’ll get any writing done while Old Man Ambrogio lectures me on exactly what my problem is (I have many). The caffè has become a physiologist’s bell for me and I am a salivating dog; without it, without my usual routine of street-facing table, fruit juice in a tall glass on ice with a straw, the white noise of espresso machine and old man nonsense, I do not write. Every day from 5 to 8. The undisputed bright spot of my day.
But sometimes, I roll up to the caffè – walk through the doors, take off my hat and sunglasses – and I see this:
A crew of unauthorized bitches at my table.
I took this picture yesterday, from the vastly inferior table behind my usual. Imagine that the camera lens is glowering, radiating black waves of wrath. Now, the staff at the caffè know that that table is mine but of course, they can’t redirect paying customers so on the occasions that this bullshit happens, they shoot me sympathetic glances; shrug their shoulders. I shrug mine, too – even if inside I’m seething. For the most part, usurpers to the throne leave quickly and within a few minutes of sitting down at another table, I can reclaim my place. But sometimes, bitches got to linger, as in the above photo. Some round-headed baby that wouldn’t shut up. Some random fat-faced relatives who kept streaming in and out. My current chapter is open, glowing on my screen, but I can’t work here at this other table; it’s too little, I’m blocked from the street, there is no bell, I have no juice. The fuck, people – do you not understand you’re impeding literary genius? Out. Out. Out of my damn spot!
And finally, the invaders leave – a graveyard of half-eaten antipasto baskets littered all over my work space. Just as they begin to collect their things, I see two teenage girls walk into the caffè. Fling my purse onto the seat, loop my ankle around the table leg.
And then the table is mine again. And then the words fall into place.
Ehi, says Alfredo at the bar. You got your place back, eh?
My place? I say. Oh, I suppose so.