I Am...

March 14, 2015

I am twenty-five years old, and I am at Cafe Vesuvio in San Francisco. I have spent the last few days wandering this city at the edge of the land, knowing my way around somehow, though I’ve never been here before. I can feel my calf muscles tightening, getting stronger, from walking the hills. This is my last day here before I fly back to the midwest, so I have returned to North Beach and to Cafe Vesuvio. The bartender asks what I want. “Just a water,” I say. “Aw, c’mon,” says a middle-aged man sitting at the end of the bar. “You can’t just drink water here at Vesuvio.” He pauses, realizes he may have misspoke. “I mean,” he says, “unless you don’t drink.” “I drink,” I say, “it’s just that I don’t have enough money for anything but water, because I don’t have much money left and I have to live on this for the next two weeks. I’m hoping to make some money at my reading tonight, but I can’t count on anything.” “Your reading?” he asks. “Are you a writer?” I nod. “Hell. You’re a writer and you’re at Vesuvio - get whatever you want. It’s on me.” “Thanks. I’ll have an Anchor Steam.” The bartender pours me an Anchor Steam, amber bubbles foaming in a glass, and the man says: “Hey, let’s go sit upstairs and talk for a bit.” I have a brief fear that he might be trying to hit on me, but he’s not acting that way, so I follow him upstairs. We climb the rickety staircase and enter the room that still smells of ghost cigarettes, despite the fact that smoking has been banned in California for over a decade already. We sit across from each other, clink our glasses together. He asks me about what sorts of things I write. He tells me that North Beach has long been a place for writers. “I know,” I say. “That’s why I came here.” He tells me that when he was young, he wanted to be a writer, but he didn’t have what it took to stick with it. “But you - you have what it takes. I can tell.” Then he tells me he has to get back to work. He pulls a ten dollar bill from his pocket and sets it on the table. “Buy yourself another drink or two. Just promise me you’ll never give up your writing.” “I promise,” I say.I am twenty-five years old, and I am at Cafe Vesuvio in San Francisco. I have spent the last few days wandering this city at the edge of the land, knowing my way around somehow, though I’ve never been here before. I can feel my calf muscles tightening, getting stronger, from walking the hills. This is my last day here before I fly back to the midwest, so I have returned to North Beach and to Cafe Vesuvio. The bartender asks what I want. “Just a water,” I say. “Aw, c’mon,” says a middle-aged man sitting at the end of the bar. “You can’t just drink water here at Vesuvio.” He pauses, realizes he may have misspoke. “I mean,” he says, “unless you don’t drink.” “I drink,” I say, “it’s just that I don’t have enough money for anything but water, because I don’t have much money left and I have to live on this for the next two weeks. I’m hoping to make some money at my reading tonight, but I can’t count on anything.” “Your reading?” he asks. “Are you a writer?” I nod. “Hell. You’re a writer and you’re at Vesuvio - get whatever you want. It’s on me.” “Thanks. I’ll have an Anchor Steam.” The bartender pours me an Anchor Steam, amber bubbles foaming in a glass, and the man says: “Hey, let’s go sit upstairs and talk for a bit.” I have a brief fear that he might be trying to hit on me, but he’s not acting that way, so I follow him upstairs. We climb the rickety staircase and enter the room that still smells of ghost cigarettes, despite the fact that smoking has been banned in California for over a decade already. We sit across from each other, clink our glasses together. He asks me about what sorts of things I write. He tells me that North Beach has long been a place for writers. “I know,” I say. “That’s why I came here.” He tells me that when he was young, he wanted to be a writer, but he didn’t have what it took to stick with it. “But you - you have what it takes. I can tell.” Then he tells me he has to get back to work. He pulls a ten dollar bill from his pocket and sets it on the table. “Buy yourself another drink or two. Just promise me you’ll never give up your writing.” “I promise,” I say.  (x)

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