None of us thought of ourselves as writers, but we must have been averaging between 2,500 to 5,000 words of fan-fiction every week. Without realizing it, all of us were getting increasingly better at the whole writing business, but fan-fiction was still the be-all and end-all of our writing universe. Then one day, Countess Vera Rassakoff breezed into the group- if you can call a ten knot gale a breeze!
Anyone could see that she had decided to make JasonD her protege, but she had her own way of going about it. She voiced the audacious idea of staring a café for readers, writers and similar life-forms. She hinted at it, we ignored her. She spoke softly about it, we pretended not to hear. She shouted it out, we ridiculed it outright. But not for nothing does the blood of her Romanov ancestors flow in the veins and arteries of the Countess. Without telling a soul, she scouted out a likely location at Hogsmeade, filled it with leather armchairs, comfy bean bags and lots of bookshelves, and sent out Dasvidania, her owl, with embossed cards announcing the opening of Café Steinbeck.
Never ones to resist a good party, we flocked to the Café, and over steaming mugs of espresso coffee started sharing stories. Within weeks, the clientele had grown so much, the Countess was forced to hire yours truly as her barista and chief waitress, so she could concentrate on baking sachertorte and writing stories.
On a gloomy afternoon, when there was nobody else around, a patron brought around a copy of a Renoir, to bring some cheer into the place. That opened a floodgate- within weeks, the walls were groaning with masterpieces – John Piper, Modigliani, Marc Chagall, Toulouse-Lautrec, Rembrandt, Pissarro… Who knew so many painters existed. Who suspected how many stories were hidden behind each of the paintings.
We started writing stories to paintings, and surprised even ourselves with the diversity of the material we produced. We wrote stories about our favourite recipes. We wrote stories to cope with calamities. We wrote erotic fan-fiction. We re-wrote fairy tales. We wrote memoirs. We wrote epic fantasy. We wrote, and we wrote, and we wrote. Till we started believing we were writers.
Then the inevitable happened. We started moving on. We had babies, we moved to new cities. We got new jobs, we had to deal with illnesses. None got married, but several got their hearts broken. One wanted to concentrate on her doctorate in mathematics, another disappeared to set up the Super Collider at CERN. We stopped frequenting the Café, its takings dropped. After fighting a valiant battle to keep it going, the Countess finally had to let the Café go when the lease expired.
But the spirit of Café Steinbeck still lingers in every one of the people who were privileged to be its patrons. We are people who never stopped calling ourselves writers even when we went for months without writing a word. We are people who can see a library of yet-to-be-written books, where others see only empty shelves.
But what is life without delusion?
* - you are going to be hearing alot about Alot in this blog. Etymology and known history found here - Hyperbole and a Half.
Painting - Young Peasant Woman taking her Coffee (1881), Camille Pissarro (copyright expired)
[This 'Delusional Thursday' post brought to you by Rayna M. Iyer, who likes to believe she is the least delusional of the bunch. That it also makes her immensely boring is something she chooses to ignore.]