I get away to do some work, hoping a bit of lesson planning will make things easier when I go back to school after the break. This is always a lie and the friend who tells you this is not your friend. My good intentions are short lived. I have five short stories hoping to finish and the need – wrong word, crazed obsession to finish them weighs on my mind. There is a deadline only I don’t know what it is nor do I know who has set it. Then I remember about this blog I have not touched in a while. Here we are.
My daughter finished a whole series of books a while ago and I’ve asked her to write the author a letter, explaining how much she enjoyed the books. I say, “Sister, there are no great writers, only great rewriters.” She gets it. I write her an outline to preempt, “How do I start?” This isn’t my first rodeo.
“Why do I have to write this?”
“Sister, writers like to know that others have liked their writing,” I say, as if having authority.
“How do you know?” she asks, destroying my authority.
I smile, not hurt.
“Just a hunch,” I say.
And I fully intend on writing without interruption only I have erred tremendously by believing I can accomplish much work at the local coffee shop. Technically this is writing but not the “I-have-to-finish-this-story” writing. Then I remember, or keep remembering like an interrupted, morse code on a loop, that today is Black Friday. And if I forget, the people here won’t let me.
The only person I connect (defined as holding my attention temporarily) with in the coffee shop is a tall white man in jeans and a blue flannel with a shaved head I gather is more a necessity than choice. He’s got a book, I love books.
I see only the words “fallen brother” on the book cover. So I do what anyone does these days to learn about another person without being social, I use the Internet. I google fallen brother, analyze my choices, analyze the book cover now shoved into his armpit, clamped snug to pay for his Caffe Americano. Actually, I don’t know what he ordered. A find a match on Amazon.
The book is Fallen Brother in Blue: The Tragic Death of Police Officer Mark Stall. I know nothing about the book other than what the brief summary gives me. The man is now at a table, engaged in an act I rarely find myself in, sitting with a friend at a table and talking. My friends are pens , notebooks and time. I didn’t know coffee was this important, a necessary pitstop from Black Friday shopping. But it’s not that, I know. Coffee is a quiet mediator, forgotten and doomed to lukewarmness between folks as they talk about deals, as they talk about yesterday, as they talk about books left to lie on a table. A woman walks by and her shirt is a depiction of Santa’s suit. A man walks by and I swear he is one of my old drill instructors but I say nothing. A guy walks in looking like Conor McGregor as if he’s just raided Wyatt Earp’s wardrobe. Three teachers sit next to me at a long table. They open up their planners and right away I gather they are more organized than I am, the first of many negative assumptions. One is African-American. I remember what a friend told me once, “I’m tired of hyphens. Just call me American.” I have the irrational desire of whipping out my planner from my bag just to let them know that I’m a teacher too and that I’m good and that and that and that rather than the guy at the end of the table with the beenie on, shaking his head in disbelief at overpriced coffee mugs.
I see bags of coffee labeled with loaded words like
failing to lure buyers, failing to tap into their “Let’s-make-the-world-better-by-buying coffee-instinct”; failing to lure buyers away from the Black Friday alerts on their phones. For a split second, I see the faces of my students but then I remember lyrics from a System of a Down song I haven’t heard in years:
“Advertising causes need
Advertising’s got you on the run
Every minute, every second,
buy, buy, buy, buy, buy.”
I should have worked at home, amidst the chaos of my lovely family and a hot cup of cowboy coffee in my hand. Next time.