A place to sit

My hands shook from the three cups of coffee I’d had while looking around the city for a place to sit. At three separate cafes I’d gotten a coffee and drank it while standing and watching for someone to stand and gather their coat. I’d start to feel like a lurker after a few minutes, so I’d slip out, like it’d been my intention all along to stand around just for awhile and then leave.

Eventually I found a corner of a table shared with strangers in a hipster Uptown cafe and so I sat, curved like a parenthesis, on a backless stool. It was a fine seat. I had a book from the library about an existential dentist, and I was relating to him marvelously.

But I couldn’t stop looking up and around at all the other places to sit. There were some couches across the room. I thought it would be nicer to go sink into the spare space on one loveseat, but what if the space was smaller than it looked from here? I didn’t want to touch hips with anyone, really. And there was a spot at another table that had chairs with backs, but what if the people sitting there were waiting for another friend? How strange would it be if I joined them? They would probably exchange looks before saying, “Oh, sorry, but we’re waiting for someone else.”

I sat on my stool and thought about how this might make a good blog post. I had a fine seat and a good book but still, I was wholly unsatisfied. What a metaphor! And I could add in pretty details about the Upper East Side on a late winter afternoon: how the soft light of four PM outlined the skyscrapers you could see if you peered down Lexington Avenue, how parents held on to the hoods of their unsteady toddlers who lurched forward on chubby legs, the crackling potential energy of a city waiting for spring. A neat story of a dissatisfied twenty-something who wants more from her job, her dates, and her seat in a coffeeshop, all against an urban watercolor backdrop.

Or, I could write about the homeless man who sat at the communal table at Starbucks, surrounded by leaking packets of sugar and holding a cup of black coffee with both hands, mumbling and keeping everyone away with his elbows spread wide. Or I could talk about how there are a million causes to fight for and a million problems to solve, but I opted to be white-collar, well-paid, with lavish holiday parties and open bars on the regular. Or I could deplore how the world is in desperate need of engineers and scientists, and I have the means and the money to become one and join the hardworking nobles who make the world better, yet I sit in a coffeeshop and lament my accounting degree while thinking of metaphors to illustrate how dissatisfied I am with things.

The existential dentist in my book is also a smoker, and the Upper East Side on a late winter afternoon is lovely.


Originally published at joannakenney.tumblr.com.