I'm sitting in a coffee shop in Brentwood, with a laptop in front of me, next to a window facing San Vicente Boulevard. I'm trying to write a book. Not sure yet what it'll be about, but it's going to be something deep, profound, voice-of-my-generation-ish, critically admired and vaguely popular (but not too popular, since popularity is the death of all aspirant "serious" literature). This book, I'm sure, will be so transcendent, so universally beloved, that the computer it was written on will be bronzed and displayed next to the pen and inkwell of the Constitution. The coffee shop it was written in will be designated a historical landmark. And I will be exalted and canonized and fondly remembered as one of the all-time greats -- that is, until I die and get my head chopped off to be cryogenically frozen in a lab in Arizona.
But before I can write my magnum opus, I have to find something to write about. And this task has been made supremely difficult by the two women sitting at the next table. They are wearing flowery maxi dresses and straw fedoras, and they are beautiful. They are all adjectives that have never been ascribed to me: gorgeous, classy, elegant, tall and blonde. They are sipping on carrot juice and coconut water, loudly discussing the benefits of going on a cleanse. "Have you tried a wheatgrass latte? Delish!" These are women who never fail to shorten a multisyllabic word.
I went on a cleanse once. I was going through a feeling-gross phase because I unadvisedly opened an Us Weekly and happened upon a page of celebrity bikini photos. I didn't stop to think, "Well, their body is their job", or "Everything here is Photoshopped anyway;" I just saw Jennifer Aniston in a two-piece and immediately cursed my snickerdoodle thighs. So I set out to do a cleanse, or, as the website called it, a "reboot", because it's healthy to have a man-as-machine attitude towards these things. For three days, I was to drink only pre-made colorful juices with ingredients like stevia, maca and hexagonally structured water. I made it thirty-six hours before I gave up and ate an entire rotisserie chicken. But I learned a lot from the experience: mainly that I have zero discipline when it comes to food, and telling everyone you're on a juice cleanse is a great way to admit to taking watery shits.
Mental note: Don't talk about shit in my book. The Pulitzer Prize committee won't like that. Okay, I have to stop procrastinating and write. This book has to break the barrier of ethnic voices writing only ethnic pieces, crush the glass ceiling of women being published and reviewed less than men. YES, something like that, but less pedantic. Or more pedantic. I should look up "pedantic" to see if I'm using it right. At the table next to me, my beautiful neighbors are now sharing a scone. A single scone. A scone that they have ordered only after ensuring that it is an organic, whole-wheat, gluten-free, ethically-farmed, fair-trade scone. The woman next to me takes a bite, does the dramatic eyes-closed, really-savoring-it move. "We did yoga today, so we deserve this." They giggle maniacally, like they just committed an unthinkable murder.
I did yoga once. It was in college, and I was lying on the ground, eyes closed, doing some soporific breathing exercise and a cockroach ran over my leg. I screamed (in a caveman way -- I've never been able to master that endearing girlish scream), left the room, vigorously scrubbed my lower body and vowed never to do yoga again. Which is fine, because yoga sucks. Yoga people would not want me to say it so harshly (they would prefer something like "Yoga is not for me", or "Yoga and I are not one"), but that's because yoga makes you soft. I don't want to "relax my muscles" and "release my energies" and "find peace and kindness": I'd rather be a coiled-up ball of rage, ready to burst at any minute.
Anyway, focus, focus, focus, focus. This book is going to be great. Groundbreaking. Intellectual. More synonyms of high praise. This won't be a book that my two neighbors would enjoy. The one next to me has pulled out a script and started reciting lines. Of course, they are actresses! I should have known: this is Los Angeles, after all. "It started after I lost the baby." I try to cover up a laugh with a cough, but my cough-laugh ("he-he-he-gahh!") doesn't seem to fool them. They glare at me.
I was an actress once. It was elementary school, and I was chosen to play Snow White in the fourth grade play. My casting had nothing to do with my dark hair, fair skin or unparalleled beauty; I was simply good at memorizing lines. Plus I had an adolescent need for the spotlight, and every good actress is an attention-seeking monster. The sole memento from my acting career is a photograph of me on stage, standing with the Prince, the Evil Queen and inexplicably, two Easter bunnies. The back of someone's head blocks a clear view of the scene, as my dad had not yet learned the unashamed, go-right-up-to-the-stage picture-taking technique that he would later employ at my high school graduation.
The two women are moving to another table in the corner. Good. Now that my vapid neighbors are gone, I can finally focus on my book -- my very serious, highbrow book. A book that will define me as a very serious, highbrow writer. I look out the window, out at the world that I seek to conquer. There are countless people strolling by: men sipping green juices, women wearing yoga pants, shirtless joggers running past, beckoning everyone's eyes towards them, probably actors. They are all striving to be something: healthier, thinner, different people altogether. And they all think they'll get there, despite the distractions of life in Los Angeles and strangers in coffeeshops and their own deep-seated, paralyzing hubris.
It's almost dusk, and I have nothing on the page. But even if I could write something great, something truly profound, would anyone read it?
I need to clear my head, refocus my priorities. Maybe I'll get a wheatgrass latte. It sounds delish.