coffee with durga

time to stop writing about the light fettering the room, loaning it a delicacy that shards against synth and worried people. it’s a starbucks, nothing fancy, and yet after reading durga chew-bose’s “too much and not the mood,” i find microcosms in my surroundings. this room, built for people to feel cared for, served, away from home, is laden with longing.

as i reflected on the way in which chew-bose reveals the infinity in details, i realized that every person can be understood in terms of longing. longing for silence, for affection, for the presence of a person whose exact location and desires the one longing may never know.

we do more than fumble with our fingers as we pay cash to the person that hands us coffee. we negotiate a gentle performance of longing and we move our limbs in a dance of submission to the object, the possession, the dim power this person holds as he or she hands over the warm, grande symbol of our own belongingness. be-longingness.

i mean this piece as a ringing endorsement of chew-bose’s style. she says in the book, “i’m proficient at having my attention drawn away. i’ve adjusted my senses to life’s incoherence…there was a period in college when the sound of the photocopiers in my library’s basement was, i’m uncertain why, blue.” to me, her words read as an exposé of the poetic eye, on turning life into a film reel orchestrated by chopin and the birds one can hear when looking on to people falling in love in grass, the feeling of falling into a body of water unexpectedly when sunburn is creeping and obscured by the nip of salt. these are the sounds and smells that narrate this starbucks for me this morning as i bask in chew-bose’s glow.

i find the most transcendent moments as a creative when i feel liberated from my high school english teacher’s snaps to cut, cut, cut my writing, which cut, cut, cut a groove in my brain that hates words. chew-bose is a salve to that.

and this feeling of freedom, yet. i wonder, a person could collapse on the street and the ache of a broken bone is hardly transcendent, even to the tune of the dreariest cello and maybe the poet’s emotional remove encapsulates the mindset that enables us all to pass homeless people coughing, like subjects in a psychological study of attention, ignoring their suffering though i have known my own suffering, known the fear of watching my little brother choke on an apple in the back of the car and the snap of my fingers instantly down his throat — that that human impulse is missing when i pass by on main street may indeed embody the texture that a writer must plumb, the flaky layers of finding beauty that can easily erode, evade me. i suppose i must open myself to the potential of finding emotional distance as a writer, since as a person i feel guilty for my very existence in most moments. i am so lucky, goes the undertone, to walk in these shoes that fit and protect me from filth, how dare i feel dread as if no place is home? i suppose that others give themselves the leeway to feel, which is why it seems to me the streets teem with artists in various forms and they seem so other-ly.

i breathe in emotional pause with each of chew-bose’s phrases. like having an empty stomach without hunger. like the placid awareness of one’s sisters visiting, she writes. “no matter where i am, when the chew sisters are together…I am emotionally solvent. I feel a sense of alcove.”

an alcove, a place carved for sitting and only sitting, sculpted into the corner with the precise intention of welcoming a long, lazy talk, a long, lazy look out the window.

if i stare into the middle of this room, bubbling with people whose experiences overlap, if i stare and cultivate the oceanic feeling, a term that i reject because of freud’s and enjoy because the “oceanic” oceanic, o-sheee-annn-icccc softens edges as saltwater would — if i watch people with remove, i detect a tiny strain of family, welding a room in which the senses are essential for sensing out which of us is present, which of us is needing, which of us has the longings that match another’s in this moment. because we are all longing, is what i gleam from the wonderment that chew-bose enervates, we are all longing for something. meditating upon that may be the very remedy that i never knew i needed.

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