My day begins at four a.m. I leave my high-rise apartment with a pack over my left shoulder and start for the all-night coffee shop. The sidewalk is empty of people but full of cigarette butts, discarded Chicago Tribunes, and the occasional broken Budweiser bottle. My footfalls echo off skyscraper walls as I walk through a cloud steam from Green Dry Cleaners, the chemicals making my eyes water. A Windy City Taxi parked by the curb has its availability light shut off. The driver is hunched behind the wheel, sleeping.
Only three blocks then I open the diner’s glass door ringing the bell. Smells of cinnamon buns and sizzling bacon comfort me. Annie, the owner, greets me with a cup of coffee, black, a gooey hot roll, and a sleepy smile. I take my breakfast to the corner booth, the one with the rip in the red vinyl seat and the chip in the Formica countertop, then dig in my pack for a yellow writing pad and my favorite fountain pen and get to work.
In cursive only my mother would love, I write: “My day begins at four a.m.”
Kristin Oakley is a founding member and current president of In Print, a Chicago Writers Association board member, and a writing instructor at UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies. Kristin’s debut novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois, won the Chicago Writers Association 2014 Book of the Year Award for non-traditionally published fiction.