Day Twenty of Thirty Days of Writing
Alone in the shop there is only the wide range of brightly colored mugs to keep me company. A mother and daughter sit at the table in front of mine. I am facing the door. They are facing each other. Each word is a practical act. Each one a thread of the tapestry. The little girl sits barefoot on her mother’s lap. Her legs hang down over her mother’s. A braided rope. The girl’s legs are tanner than her mother’s. The girl’s hair is wavy at the ends. The same barn mouse color adorns both of their crowns. The mother’s hair frizzes out of the barrette clipped at the nape of her neck. They are looking at a book which is pinned down by their elbows. Both of their chins are pointed towards the book. They both lean on their left elbows.
The mother holds the right side of the book down with her right hand. Left palms open and plastered to reddened cheeks.
“Well we know two plus two is four.”
What am I hoping they will teach me? If I was hungry, would they open their door to me? If I sat on the corner of the open-air mall watching each servant of society dutifully stop and pretend to be very excited, very interested in specific window panes where ski jackets and boots and swimming suits and backpacks and jewelry and hookah pipes all longue, waiting to be picked up by hands no longer busy supporting heavy heads —
If I sat on the corner and saw these things, if I bore unflinching witness to the mad displays- the objects that lay stealthy, luring, leering, lurking, leaking- like the floor to ceiling display in this coffee shop- twelve feet by twelve feet of monochromatic brightly colored mugs all with handles that are watching me- all with eyes that blink very slowly, ever so slowly, not at all afraid they will be found out- they will not be noticed. I see them, watching me watch them. Like light particles suddenly observed they change form.
The mother glances at me ever so carefully, without really turning her head. Her daughter’s curls mask her searching glance. But I see it and take note. I feel like taking off my shirt and running around this coffee shop and jumping up on the counter and throwing the day old pastries at everyone until they flea or until someone hits me on the head with a blunt object.
When I sat at the edge of the mall- aligning my body with the hearts that passed me- my own was a marginal thing. My gut will not permit some longing meditation on skin and crooked toes and more elbows- more fingernails that scratch me, the skin above my hip still red. Although- although I cannot keep my body from its haunting.
I think about keeping a record of all the things I eat every day. I used to do that, in a blue notebook when roaming alone made my stomach hollow. Back then it was filled with lists like:
blood orange picked from tree outside the window
Kahlua and cream with ice (repeat) (repeat again)
2 euro wine bottle (share & finish)
I’ve never dared to count the cigarettes. Why quantify such destruction? I’m not trying to reproduce the ten o’clock news.
This man at the table closest to the monochromatic mug racks is staring straight at me. How could I shift these words out of the construction zone? I look right back at him. He doesn’t blink- just keeps right on. He gives me the up and down. He’s dressed entirely in beige. He wears a plain black baseball cap and his tennis shoes are exactly the same worn raven. No white stripes,
no outer signs of exuberance. It’s raining sideways outside the windows. The mugs look like they could catch the drops. Even with all four shelves of them filled to the brims, their contents would amass to only: a large puddle.
The man in beige sits with another shorter man. They both stare in opposite directions, the beige man stares to the west and the short man stares to the east. The shorter man wears glasses. It’s been raining for three days. No one in the coffee shop says this aloud but their eyebrows look untrimmed and so we all are aware that we are all aware of the number of days it’s been raining for. The mother’s frizzy hair, another sign.
The man in beige is drinking iced green tea. The man in beige pulls out glasses of his own and the rims are square and they make him look like a cartographer. The shorter man’s glasses have round rims. He looks like a dwarf. He is wearing a suit of camouflage. He has neon orange suspenders on. The short man gets up to throw away the lone napkin that was laying
between the two unspeaking men. He waddles rather than walks. Something is wrong with either his hip or his knee. The tiles beneath their feet are arranged in a classic grid pattern. One could get enlarged chess or checkers pieces and have quite a nice game. I wish one of the men would say this to the other one.
When I avert my eyes from the odd pair I look down at my own feet (because they are getting cold from the air blowing out the vent above the table to the right of mine). I notice that beneath my feet, the tiles are diagonal. I feel like I’m waiting for one perfectly distorted moment in this little shop where my sleep-deprived, nicotine and caffeine addled mind will spill out of my ears and all the mindless chatter will rush through my nose and I will be able to understand, will not even need to understand because I will completely embody: the horrible meaning of life.
As if prolonged looking- as if noticing could present me with some sort of key- with the way to read the code. As if there were a code.
I keep searching for the answers to my questions in the same places. Turning every leaf over, touching the crooks of every elbow, munching on maple, cedar, oak, pine, hawthorn… After a while they all start to taste the same. I can put them on my tongue and know that they are unique but also know that I will not remember how to distinguish them a year from now.
Today I ate a leaf from a giant sycamore tree. I carried it for four blocks, feeling its edges, running it along my arms, over my knees. I munched its greenness slowly. It felt brittle in-between my molars and I was suddenly acutely aware of the different way I chew when grinding green. It is a gentler motion.
Soon chickpeas will make up two thirds of my body mass. There was a vapor coming from the side of the mountain. An old man stopped next to me to look up at it. He was leaving the coffee shop and I was entering. He wore an oversized white t-shirt. We couldn’t tell if it was smoke from a fire or just a cloud that had broken away. Fire and water look the same as vapors. Vapors makes me think of smelling salts which makes me think of some half-remembered scene from a movie I saw as a child. It wasn’t the Wizard of Oz.
A girl wakes up in a bed, confused as to what reality she lives in. I thought
smelling salts were romantic when I was a child. I think I relished the idea of being woken so suddenly- sliding into a body that was safe-tucked in a warm bed- surrounded by arms that are waiting to hold you. Mouths open, waiting to tell you you’re safe, everything is alright, alright now, you’re where you belong. You made it. You made it back.
I want to discover who I am in a place where no one knows what I look like naked.
Those quiet men, I think perhaps they know what I mean. I think the short man loves the man dressed in beige very much. I think he must love him unconditionally, more so, even than the mother loves her daughter, more so, than the daughter loves the mother, more so, than the coffee mugs love the rain which in its grayness enhances their color. Yes, that short man, he has
the heart of a herd of lions. He would have given up the duck whistle around his neck for that man all in beige without one thought. The way he waddled after him, perhaps they are brothers, maybe lovers, maybe life-long friends, a pair of thieves…
That kind of love that lives in the absence of physicality, in the prolonged silences. They know, those two men, that they have what I am looking for. They watch me wanting. Shared power. Wordless they leave and the little
bell above the door sounds.