Thursday, May 9, 2013

Coffee Shop


“Along the way I stopped into a coffee shop. All around me normal, everyday city types were going about their normal, everyday affairs. Lovers were whispering to each other, businessmen were poring over spread sheets, college kids were planning their next ski trip and discussing the new Police album. We could have been in any city .... In spite of which—or, rather, all the more because—here I was, sitting in this coffee shop, drinking my coffee, feeling a desperate loneliness. I alone was the outsider ... Of course, by the same token ... I had never felt this loneliness there. I could drink my coffee, read my book, pass the time of day without any special thought, all because I was part of the regular scenery. Here I had no ties to anyone. I'd come to reclaim myself.” ―Haruki Murakami, Dance, Dance, Dance

*

Perhaps the thing I loved most about New York in the days when I was loneliest were the coffee shops. In my twenties, before I met my husband, before we had children, my salvation was being able to go into a simple diner and order a cup of bitter black coffee, the kind you don't try to dress up with cream and sugar, but drink it straight, like medicine. The server would keep refilling that cup for as long as you sat there, watching people come and go, locking eyes with the other ones who sat as long as you, who maybe also had nowhere to go that wasn't screamingly empty, and so you sat hunched over a notebook or novel, chipped cup of coffee cradled in your hand, connecting you to the pulse of the town. Coffee shops are much fancier affairs these days, artfully old world in decor, with pressed tin ceilings and wood-framed glass cases, marble counters and chalked menus on blackboard, and sweet things concocted in expensive ovens. But there are still those who sit for endless stretches of time, knowing no one will rush them. They still keep each other company, lost in books or magazines or laptops at their random tables. Mostly, they appear to ignore each other. Occasionally, though, they look around and meet each other's eyes with a quiet knowing, almost a welcome; it says, You are not alone and neither am I. Here we are.

   

13 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. ellen, what does the sigh mean? xo

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    2. I think I actually commented before you completed your post, I saw only the photo and the quote.

      Although what you wrote makes me feel wistful, too. I wish I didn't have to go sit in an office, or do the dishes, or wash the clothes, or respond to emails I'd rather ignore, or return phone calls. I wish I could sit and drink fancy coffee and write, or read, or just think. I wish I had time.

      *SIGH*

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  2. hmmm i always thought new york, despite the crowds of people, was one of the loneliest places i've ever been..

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    1. Candice, it can be a very lonely city, but maybe that is true of many cities? At least in NYC there is a salve for that loneliness in the sense that one can be out in the mix of humanity, even if one is alone. That saved me sometimes.

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  3. I used to spend so much time in coffee shops it was embarrassing. The baristas all knew me and I missed the anonymity. That is what I love about a big city. Being unknown.

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    1. Vesuvius, when i first moved to the city at age 18 i craved that anonymity but it can be both a freedom and a prison. Even in New York the coffee shop people begin to know you and greet you, which can be nice.

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  4. I love the quote and then your words. And during my eight years living in the city, I don't ever remember feeling lonely -- at least in the bad way -- something you've described so perfectly here.

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    1. Elizabeth, a friend once told me that after she had children she never again felt lonely in quite the same way. I've found that to be true, but of course, i am now learning there is a whole other sort of loneliness that comes from missing them when they fly. There is nothing for it, so I sit in coffee shops sometimes.

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  5. I used to take my journal to coffee shops, both in NYC and Florida, and write there. It was great because I could focus without interruption, but at the same time -- as you said -- I was out of the house and not alone.

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    1. Steve, yes! I used to do very effective self-therapy writing in my journals while sitting in coffee shops surrounded by people. I sometimes think I should start writing in journals again. There was something so tactile about the feel of the pen or pencil on the page, and of course, we can be so much more raw than we ever allow ourselves to be here. I am glad I have gotten to know you in this place, though. I look forward to visiting you daily.

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  6. Sorry I've missed so much lately. You look lovely with or without added lip color. It's down to what makes you feel perky and happy. Belated happy birthday wishes too. My 50s have been freeing and better than fine so far and having had a melanoma in my early 30s, when my mirror shows me some new line or droopy bit of jawline now, I remind myself what a privilege it is to grow old. I love your photo on your Self-Portrait with Lipstick post.

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    Replies
    1. Elizabeth, nice to see you. I love what you share here about the privilege of getting older. Perspective is everything. Thank you. xo

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