18:14 - Friday, Mar. 17, 2006
we cannot have such things
This one will just be observation. And it is Boulder, so one might assume that my observations would only consist of hippies (describing hippies, that is), but one would be wrong. I have never really spent much time hanging out in coffee shops, and lately I have started thinking that I have been silly not to do so. Here there are entire worlds contained at tables, lives carried out under eyelids bent at just the right angle to appear intently downward, but allow for careful and scathing inspections, and judgments, of everyone that passes. How perfect! What better place for people like me to spend time, people who prefer to passively present themselves, as opposed to thrusting themselves forward, drunk, on the dancefloor and in line at the keg? (Nobody is suggesting here that those present at the coffee shop don’t also thrust themselves forward on the dancefloor and in line at the keg, but they’re not doing it now, are they? No,)* here they are: cross-legged in a cap sleeved red and white star patterned dress, looking like a little girl, bangs and all, but for the half-arm sized ‘Truth’ tattoo spilling down from her shoulder, and the double-shot espresso and a twin to my iBook, not looking up, not ever; she is rare. Here they are: two sixtysomething men, playing a full-board version of Go, one with hearing aids and one with a silver service name tag; one drops a penny and gasps,
“I dropped my penny!”
“Well, is it a heads penny?”
“No, it’s a tails penny.”
“Oh, well, then it’s no good.” He glances around. There are three people behind him speaking an unknown language who have suddenly fallen silent. “In some cultures, anyway,” he amends, but they have not fallen silent because of him, they have fallen silent because of something, anything else. Everyone is so painfully self-aware, self-censoring. Oh, the language is Spanish. I just heard the word ‘vivir’. Who knows if a tails-penny is bad luck in any Spanish-speaking countries?
I am conditioned into looking at hot men in coffee shops, even though I show no overwhelming preference, gender-wise, in a perfect situation (that perfect situation is when people’s sexual preference is virtually scribbled across their faces, as on internet dating sites). I am scared of being attracted to people who are in all likelihood never going to be attracted to me, so I ignore even the sexiest of women in public because, come on, what are the chances that they’re going to like other women? I wish people weren’t so categorical about who they like. Self-imposed blinders exist, and this is a shining example.
Over the last year, I have slowly become aware that I never look up. This may be a function of being taller than everyone and having no particular need to look up in order to see anything I find interesting, or it may be a function of being clumsy, a fruitless endeavor to stop tripping over everything (Nikki might remind me here of the time that I locked myself to a locker with a wristband-key because I was watching a mass of swimsuited humanity in the wavepool, but here, unusually, it would be irrelevant, though that story is hardly EVER irrelevant). Because I never look up, I don’t know what anyplace’s ceilings look like. I was completely unaware of the Victorian ceilings of the bookstore I frequent several times a week in order to read books that the library doesn’t have (along with trashy magazines, shhh) or the fact that Wild Oats has a second story where off-duty employees, or, really, whoever wants to, can stand at the railing and stare down at the fresh produce section. I am extremely observant of things at or below face level, but as far as I’m concerned, anything above may as well be a white-paneled, flat ceiling, any height as long as it’s tall enough that I don’t feel suffocated or my head is threatened with a good banging.
Case in point: Martha and I were driving through downtown Evanston the day before it closed because of dangerous winds, and she asked me how I felt about all the ugly new condominiums and office buildings going up everywhere. How I felt about it was ignorant; since the storefronts haven’t changed, the façades on the first and second stories are still old and brick, for the most part, I hadn’t noticed that the entirety of my hometown had changed. I looked up and there were 20- and 30- story buildings everywhere. Some were even bright orange. No joke. Come to think of it, when I had been flying into Chicago, I had been looking north and thinking, ‘that doesn’t look like downtown Chicago… I wonder what it is?’ It was Evanston.
Obviously, this scares me. All someone would have to do in a fight would be to attack me from above, not to mention it means I don’t notice 90% of my surroundings, in Boulder of all places, where, usually less than a mile to the west and a few thousand feet up, is the abrupt beginning of the Rockies, the sudden uplift of the massive Great Plains into a fully 45 degree angle off the ground; gigantic multi-ton rocks clinging ridiculously to these slides like confused barnacles. Wait, that was itself confusing. Oh, well. The point is, I don’t see it. Did I ever say here (re-say, that is, since I wrote it once in a supposedly fictional story) that I was on the Buff Bus once and some frat-looking guys were sitting across from me staring out the window and one said to the other,
“Man, the Flatirons are looking sweet today,” as if the Flatirons were a hot girl and he was sitting at a bar with his buddies and trying to gauge whether they would approve if he were to go use a terrible and crude pick-up line on her and possibly get her in bed later.
…and what this means, essentially, is it is possible for frat-looking guys to be more appreciative of nature than me, which, I suppose, has to happen once in a while, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it when it does. Because of this, I have been looking up more lately. The ceiling in this particular coffee shop has three slow-moving fans, on although it is winter, periodic downward-facing spotlightlike bulbs, and an ugly-ass heating system on top of the lowered box which makes up the bathrooms, which is not on although it is winter. There is a pipe piercing the ceiling above my head and a little to the left. One wall is wooden, like it’s trying to evoke the atmosphere of an old-tyme-with-an-e log cabin, and the others are brick, like they’re trying to evoke the atmosphere of a a new-time-without-an-e fire station. The woman serving coffee has pink hair, which, who knows what atmosphere that’s trying to evoke, other than the I’m-a-coffee-shop-employee-therefore-I-must-have-emo-hair kind. Oh, wait.
There was a break here, right before this sentence, a break of over an hour, in which Nick showed up and we played Scrabble and his attention span turned him into a zombie but I made him stay anyway, despite his impassioned pleas for a nap, and I beat him 381 to 208 (due to a genius move wherein a double letter score AND a triple word score was used on the word ‘zone’). Normally, I would sulk after being left with a whiny four year old begging to be allowed to go home after maybe 2.5 seconds of Scrabble-playing, but I just don’t feel like sulking. I feel like writing it down instead. And oh, please let me keep writing, even thought I have obviously passed my limit for a nicely packaged blob of thoughts, and passed the point where I am able to hold anyone’s attention. Don’t feel obligated. This is nearly two years’ worth of repressed thoughts that I was too stupid not to write down. I thought I had nothing to say. Wrong. I keep lots of things in because, honestly, Nick doesn’t have the energy for me to speak like this to him. He is a meditating naturalist no matter his surroundings. His current project: creating, from scratch, a fully bound professional quality songbook so he can record lyrics of songs that, in the future, in the summer, he would like to sing on the quad with his guitar. ‘So Happy Together’ being one. The only one, actually, so far, but so what. Nick is perfectly content to sit in his room with his binding glue fumes for hours and hours, occasionally venturing out to take an aimless walk, where, if he stops, he will sit, and stare at things. If he were one to read journals, this one would lose him during the first sentence. He simply does not care for semantics, for detail, for analysis. He cares for quiet acceptance. I envy him, but it makes it no easier to live with him. Sometimes we are so wrong for each other, and other times, we are so right.
*please forgive me for putting the end parenthesis there (in the middle of a sentence! Of all places! My high school English teachers would positively croak!), but that was starting to be an endless tangent and it had to at least pretend like it ended, for ( without a ) is, in writing, analogous to a V7 without a I, or a leading tone without a tonic, in music, and we cannot have such things!
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