UA-49478533-1

It’s spring, and I am rediscovering the pleasures of the coffee shop patio.

A table over, three old Russians scratch lottery tickets. Two tables over, a man enthusiastically discusses his plans for a new kind of porn website (“classy; not like Hustler. That’s just how I was raised…how do you feel about photography?”). A group of Jews goes by, then a group of Quakers, passing in different directions and wearing different kinds of hats. Just behind me, an old man reads Michael Flynn’s1 Eifelheim: I make conversation about it, but the man gets spooked when I ask to read the back cover, and leaves quickly.

As for me, I came here to smoke, drink espresso, read True Grit, and generally do what I can to avoid triggering the old chain of dark thoughts that’s been dogging me all month, till my friends arrive later tonight and I’m safe. But I end up calling an old friend instead, who has also got it bad, worse than me, whatever it is: panic attacks, relentless insomnia, waking up crying, the whole nine yards. I hang up, pray for her, and smile: there’s nothing to be done for either of us at the moment, but it feels good to understand and be understood.

Probably that’s why the old guy was spooked: I have apparently become one of those people who has loud, intensely personal, not to mention profane, phone conversations in front of strangers. Probably there is someone a few tables over, laughing at the guy who drops an f-bomb in one sentence and suggests a particularly good novena in the next. Probably he is planning to blog about it when he gets home.

But it’s a beautiful day. Why I live in New England: winter may be enough to make you curse and spit, but every spring feels like Resurrection. The motorcycles are all out, and despite my bike’s third breakdown in as many weeks, my heart is not troubled — not like earlier, when my ride broke down at the very inspection station and it took me a full two hours to recover from the disappointment. When I complain about it on facebook, my niece comments that how I feel about my motorcycle might be how God feels about us: decrepit old machines, sputtering and complaining and breaking down at the worst times, but inspiring an unaccountable fondness in their Owner.

The rhythms of my life have been changing, and I’m still adjusting. Having roommates again is good, but brings complications. Kung Fu remains a huge blessing, but two weeks ago I pulled a muscle pretty badly, and have had to sit out; that leaves a big hole. And always the writing, a pleasure and a continuous adjustment: will I have an idea, something worth saying, or have I dried up permanently this time? In writing, more than anywhere else in life, I am like the sparrows, totally dependent on Providence, on the muse that descends on her own times, her own terms.

Time to get home and set this down; set up the house for the poker game I’m hosting; set aside my preoccupations as much as I can, take solace in the company of friends, and keep learning to sit still for the long, slow work of Providence.

1 If you don’t know about this guy, you should.

9 thoughts on “With Coffee Spoons

  1. Gabriel

    “The guy who drops an f-bomb in one sentence and suggests a particularly good novena in the next.” That’s me too. :)

    Reply
  2. Sky

    I have to wonder if maybe part of the reason for our loneliness (and not just those of us with SSA) is that there aren’t enough people willing to have loud, intensely personal, sometimes profane conversations in front of complete strangers – maybe even *with* complete strangers. Maybe we bottle it up, try and keep it airtight, hide behind our copies of Eifelheim and lattes, but are, for some reason, continually surprised when it explodes in nights of… revelry.

    Reminds me of something my priest friend did this afternoon. He was walking past and gave me a pat on the shoulder, not for any particular reason. I suppose that’s what’s meant by channeling your sexual energies: not bottling it up or letting it fly willy-nilly, but trickling it out here and there in modest affection. (If I paint a sultry picture, I don’t mean to. It really was just a pat on the shoulder.)

    Anyway, motorcycles, f-bombs, cigarettes, True Grit, Kung Fu, novenas, and espresso? Well someone’s a badass. Careful, Steve, my heartstrings can only take so much ;)

    HA but seriously: thank you for this.

    Reply
  3. Ron

    Oh my goodness!! You NEVER ask to read the back cover of a complete stranger’s book!!

    Great post, Steve. Thanks.

    Reply
  4. Mary

    I’m a NE gal too.
    “Why I live in New England: winter may be enough to make you curse and spit, but every spring feels like Resurrection”.
    Love this! Never thought of it that way.
    Thank you.

    Reply
  5. Mary

    Sky said, “I have to wonder if maybe part of the reason for our loneliness (and not just those of us with SSA) is that there aren’t enough people willing to have loud, intensely personal, sometimes profane conversations in front of complete strangers – maybe even *with* complete strangers.”

    Sky…I have no idea about SSA, but you are really really onto what is dead wrong about our modern culture. People are ALONE. In the history of man, never before have so many people lived alone. People used to take it as a matter of course that they lived in bustling, harried multi-generational enclaves. This has its downsides, but it is at least festive (on occasion).
    I try very hard to see the humanity in each and every person I can. It transforms your existence. A required trip to Walmart becomes a cool conversation with the bored teen with the crazy piercings. I always ask about a small piece of jewelry or a tattoo. It takes very little time, and once you see someone’s dreary look turn into a smile, they become beautiful.
    I live in the suburbs, and they are very lonely. Shut up in the house with kids, I walk around the ghost town of our neighborhood. Where are all the people? It is downright eerie and bad for people’s psyche.
    Have potlucks…invite in the older people, the younger people, the moms with kids, the single people. I feel like our entire culture is crying out for this human interaction.

    Reply
  6. Amy

    That is the amazing thing about coffee shops… gives life a whole new perspective! Your writings are, as usual, quite amazing.

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>