The thing I don’t like about writing is that it’s an exercise in not living in the present. If I describe yesterday, for instance, I have to transport myself back to that day, imagine sitting on the bus, walking through downtown past the Amazon drones, basking in the sea of tranquility of Mr. West, enjoying the chic cafe atmosphere as I grade papers and wait for my friend. I have to imagine my friend’s granite handshake, waiting while he orders tea, our conversation, and then the fact that he pulls out his pay stub — his pay stub! — makes conversation, and I’m flabbergasted, not because he’s pulled out his pay stub but because my matcha latte is gone and I want another one. God, how I want another one but they cost $4.40 each and I always feel obligated to tip, you’re an asshole if you don’t tip in Seattle, so the idea of buying another one is out of the question. Plus, I’ve eaten nothing all day and a matcha latte probably isn’t the best idea. I need real sustenance. I need a burrito.
If I think of yesterday I remember the time I asked my friend something and he looked away and I thought, Why are you looking away? I remember the way the tea smelled like hay and had a neon green sheen like spandex, and I remember how in Mr. West it always feels like you’ve wandered into some little pocket of 1920’s New York decadence, a place where everything’s perfect, everyone affluent and moving up in the world.
But I don’t feel this way where I am now, which is Starbucks. I don’t usually go to Starbucks, not because I have anything against the place but because it’s usually too crowded and I prefer the silence of Peet’s two blocks away. Walking into Peet’s is liking walking into a mausoleum. It must get 10 customers a day. Which is great when you’re one of the customers because you feel special, like at any moment the employee could slap you on the back and invite you to his lake house, provided of course he had a lake house, which of course he wouldn’t because he’s working at Peet’s and making minimum wage for a company that probably gets a a fifth of the business Starbucks gets, scratch that, a tenth, and the only way he’d ever have a lake house is if his parents owned a lake house, and something tells me his parents could. Because this is Seattle. There are a lot of lake houses.
Back to Mr. West. I’m sitting in Mr. West, my friend comes and shakes my hand and we talk about nothing. There’s a firetruck across the street and men carrying oxygen tanks. A cloud of dust hangs in the air resembling smoke — if you want it to resemble smoke — but mostly it resembles dust. I think about what it would be like to order another matcha latte, how I would feel, but hold off because they’re prohibitively expensive. The only reason I could justify it is because the weather’s gorgeous, it’s in the 70’s in Seattle and everyone’s wearing bikinis, and it feels like the right thing to do. If it feels like the right thing to do, do it. Don’t think about it, just do it. This can be tough, because often times the right thing to do is hard work. For example, the other day I was riding the bus and I felt like I should get off at Montlake and walk across the Montlake bridge. It would be glorious, the sun was setting, and I could imagine how I would feel standing on the bridge, looking down at the water below, looking at the sky in front of me. I’d feel like Jay freaking Gastby. I’d feel on top of the world. But I didn’t do it! I stayed on the bus. I stayed on the bus like a coward because I didn’t want to walk too much. And I missed out on this experience that I knew was the right thing for me at that moment all because I didn’t want to do a little extra walking.
When you know it’s the right thing, do it.
Back at Starbucks, today today, my tea is almost gone. It was Earl Grey and now it’s the temperature of dirty bath water. The regulars to my right have left, and I’m glad. They were talking about politics and all the problems in “this town.” They kept calling it “this town,” probably to emphasize that they’ve been living here since it was just a town. I debate whether or not to work my shitty online job and decide not to. Instead, I’ll take a walk around the lake. Shitty online job or a walk around the lake? The choice is clear.