The number was growing as zeroes added on. Five hundred dollars turned into five thousand; five thousand turned into fifty-five.
My dad was ecstatic.
By that time I was already seriously enveloped in literature. More often, coming out of the subway on Union Square, I was not headed for the clinic to see my patients, but towards Barnes and Noble, where books awaited me on the shelves, and also, writers, whose pictures were drawn on the walls of that café. In those days, I often asked myself where I should be and where my place was, in an office of the psychiatric clinic or in this café?
The café patrons were varied. Sometimes an African-American preacher in a nice suit sat at the table, or a Buddhist monk in a purple shawl and sandals on bare feet, or some homeless man sinking heavily onto the chair, placing a large old bag next to him. They spoke either with other patrons or muttered to themselves. They brought into the café books and magazines taken from shelves, time-tested classics and recent bestsellers, tourist guides, sports, cooking, political journals, engineering, design, ethics, aesthetics books, or the tell-all of yet another porn star. They leafed through these books and magazines, talking nonstop the whole time. And I, sitting at one of the tables, listened closely to their murmuring, their chatting, and later attempted to resurrect their incoherent words on paper, giving them some harmony and meaning. These were my initial literary experiments.
Some more time passed and I quit my job at the clinic; I spent days on end in the café of the bookstore with pen and paper.
Franz Kafka and Isaac Bashevis Singer stared at me from the walls no matter which table I occupied. Sometimes I was tormented by remorse or doubts. Then I sat in the far corner of the café and, shamefully lowering my eyes, drank hot tea in small sips. Singer and Kafka, however, always sought me out even in the farthest corners, and I understood that I would not be able to hide from their stern, curious gazes.