Sooner or later it happens.
Usually after a poetry reading in some obscure venue.
Some smartass corners you in the ridiculously small space between the sink and the door in the public lavatory to ask, like it is the most ordinary thing to be asking perfect strangers, what would you be doing if not writing?
It catches you unawares like when you were little, and your drunk uncle sneaked up on you hiding under the bed and pulled you out by the leg dragging your bare bottom to his lap so that your legs are spread on each side of him and your hairless pussy lifted to his lips.
But this is a public toilet after all.
You can see your face in the mirror above that sink you are jammed against.
Lips painted crimson and stretched in a smile as far as they would go. Almost wrapping themselves around your neck. Like a noose.
So, you keep on smiling and say something like – ‘Oh, thank you, this is such an interesting question’ – because you have no clue what to say. Your brain is frantically searching for something smart and witty. Like a real writer would say.
Before you could come up with another cliché, a bunch of girls in painfully tight jeans bursts in and squeeze the smartass out.
That was a close one.
You wait few more minutes pretending to fix your make up.
Then you quietly open the door and slip on to the dimly lit pavement.
Walking home you choose side streets and take your shoes off straight after the corner where the city gives way to steep, narrow roads walled with Edwardian looking homes.
It is then you remember the smartass’ question.
And one by one, images of all the things you could (would?) be doing if not writing waltz into your vision as lightly as droplets of dust in the sunshine;
Dancing till dawn in sultry bars wearing nothing but a feathered boa, the hue of deepest midnight blue, and purple suede shoes with a ribbon of black taffeta tied in a bow that make your calves look long and slim.
Drinking red and amber cocktails from exquisitely crafted glasses, so delicate that the tiniest sounds escape from them every time the waiter, rather aloof and sporting long side-burns, passed them to you.
Making love to men whose names you cannot recall but know them only by the smell of their cologne and the way they try to pronounce your name, or the name of the place you told them you are from, which changes as the mood takes you.
Gambling large sums of foreign currency in the company of some aging gentlemen who pass themselves off as members of once distinguished, but now almost impoverished aristocratic families.
Reading poetry on the street corners to passers-by and downtrodden members of the working-class who are marching in protests against all-out consumerism, Jihadists, climate-changes, and any number of other mind-boggling things none of which is within their influence.
Travelling on barges across the old continent searching for the last remaining palaces with princesses still living in them, translucent with innocence.
Running across summer fields full of sunflowers and small insects in a yellow muslin dress with tiny forget-me-nots dotted all over it, delirious with joy.
Oh, all the things you could (would?) be doing!
The street lights are not working again but you can see your flat’s door by the moonlight.
Your feet hurt and you are glad to be home.
In the same old room, somewhat shabby and lonesome, with silence nestling in corners and only rain knocking on the window panes.
Then you put the kettle on and reach for your notebook, dog-eared and smeared with tears and ink and unnamed substances to write it all down.
Before the dawn.