This week I had an idea. I decided to hit Starbucks with Sarah, my assistant. The idea was to let her use my travel computer to tag the sixty some blog posts I neglected to tag while I sat with only a cup of tea and my iPod, and my thoughts. I figured with an assistant there to check in on me, I’d be able to just sit and think without having to worry about not having my switch. If I have my switch, I’m not exactly “relaxing,” I’m always doing something, reading, playing a game, writing, something. Also, I feel like I should be able to just sit and kind of meditate awhile. Driving’s another place where I attempt quiet contemplation, but trips are usually short and during longer trips I tend to simply nod off. So, Starbucks, one hour, the iPod and my thoughts. Stupid. Idea.
Quiet time is just time for uninterrupted fretting. I’m not good at just turning off the zillion thoughts in my head. Still, I feel like I should be able to do so…1 comment
When Ella was thirteen, she realized she was going to die, and for a month she lay awake every night in terror, flat on her back afraid she might vomit, rigid, nodding and starting nearly jolting herself out of bed, finally she would fall asleep. Now she sleeps better but with no warning she is sometimes ambushed and paralyzed with terror of death … Looking around the car, she can see each of these faces in its casket, grey flesh limp, eyes fallen in, nightmare caverns of stiff nostrils black as pitch, sagging ears, slack cheeks drooping away from a wired jaw and permanently sealed, livid mouth … The opposite bench is empty, in the black pane of the window above it there’s a wan dewy frowse, Ella, and above all she can see that face in its casket, purple-black bruises make a wide ring around her eyes, her hair dry as hay, weirdly friable and clumsily gathered on the stiff cushion – “just fucking burn me” she says with cold lips sutured shut. In her mind’s eye she’s searing, melting and shriveling in the flames, locks of hair flap here and there in gusts of fiery wind – and that would be something like life, it would be a decision – as if she had set the fire – instead of that passive acquiescence to rot away in a wet hole.
I’ve had that exact kind of experience. I remember as a kid, maybe ten or eleven, something like that, I’m in the van looking out the window when the idea hits me that one day the sky and the trees will keep going, but I won’t, I’ll be dead. My mom, my brother, they’ll die too, but even then I realize I’ll probably die first. Everything will keep going, but I won’t. Then I start to think about everything that happened before I was born, how I didn’t exist and time kept going until I did. I remember being absolutely terrified for a few minutes. I remember that experience vividly. Long before the last year or two, before tasting it so many times, I’d thought about death and time and existence.
Sometimes, especially at the mall, I look around at everyone with their cellphones and shopping bags, I think to myself that we’ll all be dead. People who are so young and stylish, texting their friends and drinking chocolate lattes, they’re all going to lose everything that seems so important right now and they won’t exist. I think how some will grow old and die quietly. Some will get sick and die in hospital, slowly, they’ll know it’s coming. Then, of course, I think of myself dying, how it’ll probably be some kind of acute respiratory failure. At least for a few minutes I’ll know what’s happening and I won’t be brave about it. Everyone in the entire mall will be gone, but the world will keep going and that day at the Macy’s and the Starbucks won’t matter at all.
I’m definitely not obsessed, but I do think about these things. Sometimes, like Ella, I don’t sleep.8 comments
So, it’s been kind of an odd experience being social post-trache. Honestly, at the beginning the entire prospect of making new friends and keeping old ones seemed really difficult. At 27, I was pretty used to talking. I always used to be fairly socially self-conscious, internally far more than outwardly. I’d run everything by my little internal censor thirty times, then he’d run it by a committee of nuns, then if everything passed I’d say it. I also had this problem with my jaw getting tight, which definitely made me feel awkward sometimes. Still, I was talking, which seemed better than not talking. However, when life goes really insane, you either adapt or break. I’m adapting more than breaking. Though, I’ve broken enough too.
Well, Tuesday, I decided I’d go meet an old high school friend for drinks at Starbucks, we started talking again through the magic of Facebook. Lately I’m oddly compelled to catch up with people I knew back then, though it’s a little hard to explain why. Like I said, I was pretty reserved back then, and I had a great deal of social and general anxiety that kept me from doing a lot. Today, however, I’m not afraid anything that used to scare me, I’m sure as Hell not afraid to talk to people. I suppose almost dying a bunch of times, a little drug addiction, some hard drinking and a lot of brilliant sex changes a fellow’s perspective. I guess I want people to know I’m not that quiet kid who got lots of A’s, but didn’t really talk to people. At any rate, I invited Priscilla for coffee, which ended up being steamed chocolate soy and tea.
So, I start off by making a few spectacular decisions. I pick the busiest Starbucks in the area at 5 PM, a time during which it’s guaranteed to rain torrentially. We pull into the parking lot and on cue, the sky promptly opens up and rain begins to fall. Flashes of lightning result in instant and astonishingly loud claps of thunder. It’s probably like what Noah saw right before things went really wrong. So, my assistant, Sarah (with an H), and I get fairly damp hoofing it inside. Since I haven’t seen Priscilla in over half a decade, I decide to go all out and bring along my travel computer and my switch in order to converse via the wonders of technology. The thing is, I don’t actually take my computer out much socially. It’s a lot to carry, I can’t move around and use it, and if my hand isn’t warm enough I can’t use my switch, which makes the computer useless anyway. Taking a computer and feeling the need to take a computer everywhere is a struggle for me. I find that if who I’m with is willing to talk via the alphabet, I have a much more relaxed time. It’s nice to be able to take a break from typing, from being tethered to so much technology. It’s nice to just go somewhere and not worry about having to use my switch, not having to worry about my hand being too cold to type anything. Really, I don’t like the idea that without a computer I’m completely fucked, it’s unsettling having to totally rely on technology just to have a conversation or to say that I can’t breathe. Going out and having a good time, feeling safe without a computer is truly freeing. I learned that from my Sara. We can go anywhere, have spectacular conversations and not be tied to technology. Still, using the alphabet is different for everyone. Some people still can’t get used to it, the potential slowness, the initial awkwardness. Intellectually, I understand it, but it’s discouraging sometimes. I can’t talk to my brother when we go out, he still can’t get used to my third language. Thus, my plan was to sit outside, away from the air conditioning, to chat digitally with Priscilla.
Of course, with the torrential downpour, we’re inside. It’s ice-cold because of a state law that demands all Florida buildings to be hyper air-conditioned from April to October and we’re relegated to one tiny table because nobody wants to sit in the rain, but nobody wants to go home either. Also, I’m rather damp, making my hand extra cold. The computer is useless. Now, some months ago, I would have been pretty mortified. I’d have assumed that Priscilla would be bored and hate me. I’d have wished I’d stayed home. Fortunately, that me died, probably after the last trache change. Seriously, sitting there in the freezing cold Starbucks, the lights flickering after cracks of lightning, all I’m thinking is, “Holy Christ, this is going to be fun to write.”
Priscilla arrives and Sarah explains that my hand is really cold, so I can’t use the computer, but we can still talk using the alphabet. Unlike many, Priscilla catches on quickly. She takes over of my fancy pen, and my little notebook, we don’t have to translate through Sarah. I should explain, talking with the alphabet involves a person saying each letter of the alphabet and me signaling with my eyebrows when to stop at a particular letter. Then, each letter gets written down in a notebook. I have a ridiculously decadent forty-five dollar pen, because if I have to do something so absurd, I should have a really nice pen. It ends up, at least from my perspective, being a really nice evening. I want to tell her, “it’s Diving Bell, the Interactive Experience!” But I don’t. It’s a lot of letters and I’m not certain she’s even seen The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It’s a joke I let slip. Interestingly, we end up meeting a woman who saw me on TAL and was quite “inspired” by me, convinced that I’d be really excited about “accessible playgrounds,” and a professor from my stint in design school. He was absolutely certain I’d done a spectacular project on jazz in the roaring 20s and I totally said I remembered, but the closest I’ve ever come to the roaring 20s is dressing as a zombie flapper for Halloween. Still, it’s much easier to let him remember my project.
I had a good time, I’m pretty sure Priscilla had some fun, and I definitely got something to write.6 comments
I know they’re evil and all, but I have to admit that I’m big on Starbucks. My current poison is steamed soy milk with dark chocolate. I go to the same Starbucks a few times a week, Sara and I used to go on weekends. There’s a big shady tree out front, it’s surprisingly tranquil for being near a busy road. It’s one of those twenty-four hour Starbucks, last year we were there with a bunch of other hardcores at 2 AM after Midnight Mass. There’s also one barista in particular who practically lives there…
Shaun Leveroni, 25. He’s been an alchemist of caffeine since moving to Tampa from San Diego. Five years ago, before joining the ranks of his fellow baristas, Shaun found himself slamming down around $350 a month on various coffees. Aside from flexible hours, the job offered plenty of free lattes. It’s another example of a fix for a fix. Shaun’s actually not so into coffee today, he says, “I used to be a coffee addict ($350/mo in CA). Now, I rarely drink it. Not that I don’t like it, I just don’t crave it. I love tea.”
Shaun’s actually surprisingly serious about the job, he knows people often compare Starbucks to crack, but he notes, “There is good and bad in everything, Starbucks helps a lot in communities and other countries. Sometimes these things come at a cost. They aren’t a crack dealer. People are smart enough to know what they are putting in their bodies. They offer decaf.” I brought up the subject jokingly, but apparently it comes up a lot.
It’s also always amusing to hear the hyper-elaborate drinks people order, so I ask Shaun if people are so particular for a reason or if it’s just an affectation to sound hip, to which he says, “People do elaborate, customized drinks for health reasons. But I have accidentally messed up drinks and only realized it 20 minutes later… they never returned the drink. So, people do order drinks to sound cool, too.” I ask if the pretension ever drives him crazy, but such is not the case for our coffee hero, “Modifications don’t bother me, I question whether they make sense (like 1.5 tsp. Splenda), but I make what they want regardless.” Personally, I’d probably deck people left and right, but that is why Shaun’s the barista and I just write about it.
It’s not easy work, but Shaun definitely digs it, he’s ready for anything. One time, “someone ordered 25 shots of espresso at once,” but Shaun was ready. If Batman walks in tomorrow, he’ll know exactly what to serve the Dark Knight. “Straight black offee, to the point, low maintenance, quick and easy,” Shaun tells me. I think he’s totally right.3 comments
So, I’ve taken to going out somewhere, everyday, without much exception. I get lazy, actually, no, lazy isn’t the right word… Sometimes I get overwhelmed by the level of planning it can take to go do something as little as going to Starbucks. I look 30 steps ahead and sometimes I just think, “fuck it,” especially if my trach is acting oddly. It also depends on who I have for an assistant. It’s not always easy to find decent people who are skilled enough to travel. However, I do finally have some good people, and so, I go…
Today, hat shopping and Passion tea at Starbucks. Tomorrow, we shall see…2 comments