by Camillia Nazanin
PHILADELPHIA, PA— Mason Sutherland, a regular Philly cafe customer, just celebrated the two-year anniversary of what he calls “a great American novel in progress.”
“It feels almost surreal to reach this milestone in my career,” said Sutherland, dressed comfortably in a navy-blue Nike jacket and sweats. “I’ve come up with this character, Jack, who feels profoundly misunderstood. And he’s about to meet this amazingly strong but also vulnerable woman, Rose, who’s going to understand him.”
Upon further inquiry, Sutherland added, “I’ve got about five hundred words so far. Writing, you must understand, is a process.”
Cafe employees have come to know the aspiring author quite well.
“He usually sits way in the back on his laptop,” said Lisa Jiang, a shift supervisor. “He doesn’t really type, though. I think he spends seventy-five percent of his time ordering espressos.”
“One time I went to ask if I could throw away his trash for him, and I saw a list of names on his computer,” said Elizabeth Halpin, a longtime barista. “For his characters, I guess? And then he ended up going with Jack and Rose.”
Yet even in the face of criticism, Sutherland remains confident in his creative journey.
“Great art is always prescient, which means by definition that the public aren’t yet ready to appreciate it during its time,” he remarked. “This just makes me stronger. Now I feel like I really am Jack, and that means I can write Jack with even more vision.”
Camillia Nazanin is a writer and contributor who doesn’t understand why iced coffee needs whipped cream. When she’s not working, you can find her doodling, reminiscing with old-school Nintendo, or looking at the stars.