A morning can be classified as quiet and slow when the only decision you find yourself at odds with is whether or not to go out for coffee. The heart of the question is probably whether or not I think I need a little human contact. Do I need to see and hear the movement of people around me? Do I need a morning watching others interact, sitting around placing guesses to myself about the personalities and quirks of strangers? Watching and listening sometimes does wonders for my imagination. Catching glimpses of the lives of others is sometimes all I need to float off in new and different directions. A new character might appear in my mind, based on someone I saw, or maybe a different way of saying something familiar. Maybe I’ll marvel at someone’s clothes, or tattoos. Or maybe think about careers and jobs and people moving in and out of the weekend and how that will effect their own upcoming Monday. Maybe I’ll just sit and listen to young coffee jockeys, riding the names of coffee drinks that I will never be able to wrap my memory around. How do they remember all of that?
But I am always left with the question: do I need to balance that thin blade that lies between being alone and being creative? What if I am cut? What if in the middle of all of the creative observation I turn slightly and catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror, and realize that I can’t imagine a single thing? What if that happens? But coffee shops are fairly mirror-safe, I’ve found. It’s bars you need to watch out for. With their long polished mirrors that sometimes sweep an entire length of wall, bars can emerge like a black plague to someone who only thought they would look around for a minute or two. Because somewhere amidst the reflections of a hundred liquor bottles and the backs of all bartender heads, your own reflection will be hiding, and a bar, I’ve found, is not the place you want to spot it.
But I’m getting sidetracked. The debate this morning isn’t about whether or not to find a bar, but where to drink coffee and be alone. Where to sit and think. Where to listen to the morning sounds move in and grow louder. Where to feel the cool air on my bare toes and prop my feet up on a cardboard box ottoman. Where to have my phone handy, and a bathroom, and internet service. Where to have all my books close by, just in case. Where to listen to sprinklers running and birds singing and squirrels crashing around in the limbs.
I can think of only once place like that.
But I am not left all alone to create an imaginary world. Even now, a neighbor clomps down the stairs of a nearby apartment, her black shoes big and heavy. An oriental girl of sorts, with short, bobbed hair and bangs, wearing a black dress and white hose and, of course, the loud black shoes, looking like they’ve been plucked off a long dead pilgrim. I’ve seen her before, several times actually, but not in this particular outfit. And until just now, seeing her in her black dress and white hose, I’ve never really noticed just how substantial her legs were. They’re not fat by any means, but thick and strong. Like tree trunks with white bark. I imagine that if I ran into her I would bounce right off. And then I begin to wonder if I could knock her down, say if I had a running start and she didn’t see it coming. But I keep watching her legs as she moves down the sidewalk, disappearing around the corner of another building. I study the way the shoes keep contact with the concrete. I analyze the way one foot curves slightly in and her steps are short and sure. I notice how she keeps her head and eyes straight ahead, never straying, always confident of where she is going, and I realize that no matter how hard I run into her, I am never going to knock down this girl. Not with those legs.