When we were both in our 20s, a full-time screenwriter friend of mine had an office in downtown Galveston. He showed it to me once, and I remember thinking how great it must be to have that space, to have that physical distance between the rest of his everyday life and his creative playground, to have that privacy and freedom from distraction.

I thought about that office again yesterday, from my Day-Glo Brothers illustration-strewn lunch-hour table at my favorite branch library, not long after the 78-year-old Englishwoman with a chemical sensitivity asked if she could sniff my laptop.