As some of you may know, as well as holding private creative writing workshops, I also tutor creative writing for the local council. Tutoring adults can be rewarding (discovering wonderful writers), chaotic (my lesson plans are rarely followed – someone will inevitably take things off at a tangent) hilarious (the undiscovered comedian/ the completely unaware comedian) and thought-provoking (especially with memoir writing) Every now and then I like to share some of their work.
Here is a piece written by one of my students, Lei. He has an exceptional style of writing that is always individualistic, always has great depth.I hope you enjoy his work.
More than a simple two-shot americano
Cafe society, she says. Busy lunchtime. All tables surrounded. Custer’s last stand. Wagons, ho. People sitting angular wooden chairs. Hubub of humanity talking. So loud can hardly hear laconic Scotsman sits across from me. Something explanatory about photography and jazz. He deaf in one ear. Head twists to one side as I speak in response. Hears me but can’t.
Cafe society, yes.
She retired now. Bad back, you see. Watch walking. Lifts one leg, knee at right angle. Places foot down. Other repeats action of first. Ambulates carefully. Arms not move, at sides all times. Resigned. To pain. From work. Voluntary redundancy or something. Says can’t take it any more. DWP. Targets. People just numbers now. National insurance. Emphasise throughput. Taylorism. Quantity. Quality no time for. People units of movement. Everybody nice about it, she said. My leaving, I mean. Sorrow felt for those behind, sinking in statistical swamp. Interviews in windowless rooms Inexpensive polypropylene carpets stinking of anxiety and discarded skin. Consultation with job coaches to be taped, she says. So getting out now, she says. Hates sound of self on tape anyway haha. (Who doesn’t?) As if that real reason. Yes. Memorex. Purposes of staff training, not surveillance. Right. Nothing to see here, please move along. Job not under threat. Just squeezing the stone, more blood out of. (Ajahn Chah asked his followers, See that rock over there? Yes, they say. Is it heavy? he asks. Yes, they say. Not if you don’t lift it, he says.)
Business transient. Life transient. Contemporary. Foolish. Irishman pink shirt outside jeans complaining. Englishman greeted him shop next door. Irishman angry that Anglophile mocks accent. “Top o’ the mornin’ to yer!” Irishman jigs exaggeratedly as describes moment. Surprisingly agile on trainered feet. Heels flick sideways; arms bend at waist. Head nods. Own caricature how English parody inhabitants over Irish Sea. Says, ‘So told him, “Aw, jus’ feck off!”’. We laugh. Know won’t count next time Irishman needs pop next door when runs out milk again. What a thing for a coffee shop.
Once, said, in Boston, US. Seated in coffee bar, Tom Waits playing. Thought to self how heaven playing Tom Waits in own coffee shop. Now has. Now living the dream. Yes.
But I know drinks white wine and maudlin increases. Accompaniment of Tom Waits, drinking songs. ‘Hasn’t drunk for twenty years,’ says. Wasn’t talking about him, almost said. Referring you. Imagine white wine. Sweet. Sharp. How after several glasses cease tasting it. Smoothness of chilled glass. Hold between index finger and thumb. Pinky outstretched. After while stop caring how look. And his eyes glaze, like a dying bird. Sees inward to own soul. Sings along Tom Waits. Duet of sorts, done remotely. Not even on same continent. Stops. Goes quiet, not like him at all.
Then. ‘Hasn’t drunk alkhol twenty years,’ slurs. ‘Here, have sm’wine’. Holds empty bottle up to me. Looks at carafe. ‘Shit!’, says. ‘Empty!’ Like only noticed now. ‘I’m going,’ I say. ‘’Where you going?’ Rhetorical, so don’t reply. Leave two others, drinking buddies. One young with dreadlocks, smoking spliff. Other older man, squat, white beard and trilby hat. Irishman gets up. ‘No smoking ‘n here!’ declares, no direction. Followed by, ‘Wait here! More wine maestro!’ and ‘Next door, Jeeves!’ As if carbon-guzzling motor chauffered outside waiting. ‘Nxzht dzhr!’ Vowels go missing, snatched by inebriated brain. ‘Nglshz bshztrd,” says. ‘Top o’ th’ mornin’, my arse!’
Staggers to feet. Yanks open glass door in wooden frame which warps in season. Glass shivers in situ, surprised. ‘Bldy dzhr!’ exclaims. ‘Fxsh tht!’ Follow out of shop. Watch weave next door, pushing on wall with left hand for support. Opposite direction, I, homeward. As walk away hear shouting. ‘Nglszh bshztrd!’ Perhaps refused to serve. It’s an offence, Your Honour. 2003 Licensing Act. Fine up to £1000. Or licence lose. More than my job’s worth, don’t hear proprietor say.
Don’t know. Don’t know. Not there.