A humid breeze swirls through the predawn shadows as The Beast (my 1990 GMC Safari) roars to life. I hope it hasn’t woken the kids inside the house. Stones crackle under the van as I speed unnecessarily to the end of the quarter-mile drive under a canopy of trees that, in the morning light, will show just a hint of yellow at their tips. But at 6:30 it’s still dark.
I whoosh down wet country roads, a slight fog clinging to my front windscreen. The air carries just a hint of fall leaves, a dash of rain, and, under it all, like the spice you can’t quite put your finger on, some premonition of winter. I’ll take all of it.
I drive through the small town of Gap – when I was a kid, 6:30 in the morning would have meant the roads would be deserted, but now, in 2012, I am 34 and the roads are lined with idling semis who only know they are somewhere between Philadelphia and Harrisburg. They cannot possibly know the importance of the hidden baseball diamonds they pass, or the exhilaration I felt at that Exxon station the night I crept out of the house, fifteen years old, disregarding my parents, and way in over my head.
But that’s a different story.
I park in a small lot and walk through drizzle to the glass door of a restaurant. Inside it’s quiet, and a white-haired lady with a kind smile greets me, the same woman every time. I sit at a booth and wait.
Caleb arrives, wearing a suit coat. I am glad I didn’t go with my normal getup of paint-covered sweatshirt and ripped jeans. Well, not really. Caleb isn’t the kind of guy to care about that, and neither is Bryan, who walks in a few minutes later.
The conversation warms up slowly, kind of like The Beast. This is normal. Why – because we’re guys? it’s early? we’re guys? I don’t know, but soon the interrogation begins in earnest. The coffee (okay, I drink tea) begins disappearing from the small mugs.
What are you working on?
Where are you trying to go with it?
What are your goals?
The restaurant begins to fill. Caffeine spikes into the blood, we push thoughts forward over omelets and toast and let the others pry through our writing with forks and knives and questions. I realize I could talk about this stuff, with these guys, all day.
Bryan heads off to work. I stand in the parking lot with Caleb, and he politely listens to the top-secret details of my work-in-progress. We shake hands. I head home to write.
How can I describe the importance of spending time with people who understand what I do, why I would spend entire days, weeks, months, simply writing? Impossible.
If you don’t have friends like this, start looking. Or keep looking.
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Do you spend time with people who truly “get” what you do?