The Barista

cafeSee the scene: a table made of real wood; chairs too; a drone of unintelligible conversation punctured by ire and laughter (they make themselves heard above any din); a man, a woman; a beer, a coffee; one tipsy, one too sober for her own good.

See me, behind a counter also made of real wood. Reinforced with metal hinges. The structure must be sound. It has to fulfill health and safety regulations. Our kitchen has no wood, I believe. Wood absorbs moisture, I imagine. There is varnish on the counter, to prevent this very problem.

I watch them. They are no more or less interesting than the others here. But I take turns, and give each table its due. Even the empty ones. Especially the empty ones. Those allow me to think about what I saw, what I heard.

But now, it is this couple’s turn. Theirs, at their wooden table, one tipsy and happy, the other listlessly merry, There are many kinds of happiness in the world. Theirs is momentary.

“Can I tell you a story idea? I’m tipsy.”
“Please!”
“Okay, so-” but the tipsy one is cut off, because I am there, not-so-surreptitiously picking up the empties, mug and bottle alike. He is beautiful, this man, and I want him to notice me. I smile. He says, “Thank you.” I stop smiling. The sober one doesn’t look at me at all. She is checking her phone. She’s one of the workaholics. I’ve seen her here before. Only memorable because of her piercings. She is not interesting. She is only average.

I wait until they leave, and I follow them. The beautiful man, he gets on the subway heading downtown. The same subway I take.

I will look for him now. In every car. On every ride. He is not more or less interesting than the others I see every day. He is only more beautiful. No one is interesting. This I have learned from countless observations of the fourteen wooden tables, three-seat bar, and twelve-seater old slab of concrete where students clack on keyboards and read Kierkegaard with furrowed brows.

No one is interesting.

 

 

 

Image / Beshef

Mindfulness

It’s a hard sell. Mind minus body. The lumbering meaty thing is still there, with all its joints and hemoglobin and heart conditions. It doesn’t leave you just because you decide to value that tangled web of firing neurons and chemical imbalances called a brain.

You do value it. Of course you do. It’s what makes your body tick, it’s what allows you to run on the treadmill and eat falafel¬†from a food truck at 3am with your date,

No, that’s not right. That’s your brain.

Is your brain the same thing as your mind?

It’s that kind of night. The kind where you’re asking stupid philosophical questions and waving a white flag of defeat in front of your responsibilities. You’re done. You’re through. No more tonight. You need a rest.

So how do you convince people to see your mind over your body? It’s hovering there, your mind, above and around and in between all of your bodily functions and orifices and fortunate features. But it doesn’t overlay them. It just sort of shimmers. Sometimes it gets noticed. But not usually.

No, when you walk down the street to the post office to send the birthday present you’ve owed your mother for three months now and the rent check you’ve owed for slightly longer, you are not a mind above a body. You are a theoretical person, with a theoretical mind, but mostly you are simply a collection of limbs and features that are recognized as human.

Are you?

Is anyone?

It really is that kind of night. Shut your mind off. Let your brain wander. Watch some TV. Stop thinking about that girl you saw on the train and wanted to talk to. She’s long gone. She doesn’t exist in your world anymore.

Does she exist at all then?

Does it matter?

Shut up.

Quickie #3 – Uphill

She’d never experienced a more beautiful morning than the one on which her car broke down, her cellphone ran out of battery, and her period started while she was on the highway, waiting for the AAA people to come and get her out of the jam. She scratched her legs where they itched from the mosquito bites and thought, since she had nothing better to do, about how odd it was to stand there, on the side of the highway, with amenities that didn’t work. Even her own plumbing was betraying her, dripping uncomfortably into the expensive Victoria’s Secret underwear she’d gone to all that trouble to buy. Even with the fumes of the rush hour traffic creeping by, there was a natural beauty to everything. Even the man picking his nose in the car in front seemed particularly poignant on this of all mornings, as he dug into his nostril with a ferocity best kept to private spaces.
She leaned against her car, patted its hood, and told it that everything would be okay. “We can’t get any lower than this, baby,” she soothed the car. “It’s all uphill from here.”

Quickie #1

I had my teacher forward a photograph of a painter’s handwriting to a writer I’m reading. I hope that if she sees it, she will think well of me for reading so attentively. This has always been my strategy. Read close, read deep, read intimate, read older. Forty at sixteen, she and I have this in common: our ages play dissonant chords with our faces.