Beside you sits a wrinkled napkin, a yellow-brown ring half-formed around its center--the offending tea cup sitting just beside it now. You cannot say why it caught your eye as you loaded up the papers you'd been grading, getting ready for the next item on your to-do list--only that it stirred something inside you, loosened an almost forgotten fact from the crevices of your mind:
You used to write on napkins. Even used-up ones like these. Just out of braces and feeling oh-so-adult with your new teeth and your after school hostess job, you decided you had stories in you. But when to write? (An even bigger question than what to write--you figured that would answer itself, so long as you could convince the ever-moving clock that words were worth your time.)
You were still under the vague impression that writers--"real" writers--must devote every moment of the clock hands spinning around its face to build stories out of ink and fantasy. But you were a high school student (an identity you only grudgingly admitted to) and a pub hostess (perhaps, you hoped, you looked more worldly than your 17 years). And you lacked the funds to run away to Paris to write. So you squeezed your scribbles in after cleaning tables and seating customers, in those brief stretches between filling water glasses and folding napkins--those napkins again.
You kept the cloth ones for the customers and contented yourself with the cheap cocktail napkins to scrawl across. On one frayed edge was the start of your first novel (mercifully gone now, buried deep inside your creative compost); on a crumpled corner, a nonsensical story; on the inside flap of another napkin, the quick sketch of pub scenes, like the couple getting too cozy in a corner table, or the boisterous bar-side conversation of friends.
You would stuff these worldly scraps into your pocket like someone would a crumpled tissue and pull them out when you got home smelling of French fries and cleaning solution. Carefully you would untangle them and stack them upon your writing desk to cure overnight. Perhaps tomorrow they would yield the seeds of a story.
Now, you eye your watch--those hands winding around fat numbers--and glance back at your napkin. You still have a few minutes before you really need to go. So you settle in, however briefly. You take up that napkin and a pen--and you write.
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