I have had enough.
Of a lot of things.
And ONE OF THEM IS CAFFEINE, so I’m settling in with a second triple this-time-DECAF undertow with a partial pump of hazelnut. That sweet cream of the past is way too sweet, and I find that my required dosage is smaller for all things good, so that just a glimpse is grandeur. I use the word glimpse too often, but it serves well for now, while I do things other than thinking of a better word for my daily portion of sometimes being on the very edge of a garden. A garden that soothes like a rose with the morning dew beside a path. A path made of small, smooth stones that are perfect for walking barefoot. A path that spirals in a labyrinth, ending at the beginning and continuing on in every direction of eternity . . .
Oh, and later I thought of this so I will insert it here: my word for it is squirrel. As in I saw a squirrel, and that means I was still outside, but got a glimpse of the rose and the dew and the path, and it was all so delightful.
After a full night of very pleasant dreams, I began the day proper right where I am: in this coffee shop. It is not quite true that it was a full night’s rest, because I awoke at 3:30 a.m. wide awake from a pleasant dream that quickly faded in memory although the effect endured. I considered getting up so very early on my day off, finally!, and just asking for it all to begin. But rest is important, and I am glad that I drifted back into dreamland since each time I drifted, I dreamed another dream and then woke up. Wide awake. And then I drifted. And went into the deep. And dreamed. And awoke. And this continued for three more hours until I awoke long after the earth had turned into the sun. And I was rested.
On my days off I have a ritual of planning one thing that involves a relationship, and then I plan nothing else. I expect the rest of the day to come, as it always does, in a kind of revelation.
The one planned event of this day was to meet with my elderly friend, named A****** to play conversational catch up. She is good company: honest, insightful, worldly wise, and unafraid. And she has a cute dog that attracts attention. Later, as we rode the streetcar, an attendant commented that technically unless an animal is a service animal that performs a necessary task for its owner, it is not to be allowed on public transit. I replied that she did perform a task all morning: attracting the attention of girls. And Coco had done that well. Girls kept coming to our table as I sat there with bemused indifference, really, indifference that they were youngish girls, but really enjoying the encounters with other humans. These were unplanned intersects within the geometry of this one planned event, shaped by lines of calendar code in software written by others who work in a wonderland located in Cupertino, CA.
It began then with that conversation and the animal lovers, and I imposed an artificial deadline which would mark the end of this meeting with my friend. But, the line of space-time curved around upon itself as it does, and we found ourselves walking down Broadway to one destination which would be a Rite-Aid pharmacy. And it would take us past a Redbox DVD kiosk where I could drop off a movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service. It was bloody good fun, even the second time, although I had intended to rent Kingsman: The Golden Circle and watch that one for the first time. On another night before a day off I would get that one, unless space-time took another turn.
I forgot to turn us in time, so we were at Rite-Aid before Redbox and I still had the DVD in my backpack. And all along the way I saw squirrel after squirrel in downtown Portland, OR.
The missed turn became plan B for destination two, to get Coco some treats at a dogs-only store that A. likes. Coco had earned these treats, possibly for bringing all the girls to the table or whatever. So we hopped on the streetcar where the attendant said what he did, and by the time he finished his required admonition for an undocumented canine on transit, we had used transit to arrive. Nicely done, elderly friend, using who you are to your advantage! And, I will take partial credit because the attendant was a guy and I had planted the image of girl after girl coming to his table (if only he had a cute dog).
Outside the door of dogland, Siri told me there was another RedBox a few blocks away. Coco agreed, having her treats in the bag now, and we began walking again to drop off the DVD, now destination three. It was quickly done, but on the way I had passed a FedEx retail store with abundant signage, and the word FAX stood out. Because I had in my backpack something that needed to be faxed. You may have no idea what that is, so look it up. You see, I had been a big boy a few weeks ago and filled out multiple forms for USPS that would enable me to change over to a great health insurance plan. I had tried to fax them, but the line was busy busy busy. Five times actually, it was busy, so I had put the forms into a priority USPS mail envelope and in a weird confluence of job and social security, I a USPS employee am sending via USPS a set of forms to USPS that, if all goes well will enable me to retire from USPS in five years (or longer if I choose), and have USPS healthcare at an extremely affordable rate for life. Ooh, just writing that makes me feel like an adult and see a squirrel.
But then, those forms were returned to me via USPS, denied, because I had sent one extra page that had confused them to a degree that rendered them unable to cope, apparently. So, I had the forms again, without the one extra page you dimwits, in my pack ready to try to fax again. To USPS, etc. but haha on a FedEx fax machine (And you should know here that out there on the job, all the carriers work together. UPS, FedEx, and USPS, we are all in it together and there is plenty of delivering for all of us. Which is why Amazon got into it too with their Mercedes delivery vans. Those poor carriers with Amazon are trying to do it without any institutional knowledge whatsoever, and I have seem them wandering around entire neighborhoods looking for an address. I have seen them walking 100 meters down an alleyway, following GPS, carrying a large box, when you know, you can drive around on the back side and back right up to the porch, dude. So, yeah, my forty year old metal box drives circles around a Mercedes almost everyday. But, I help them when I can).
I am in the FedEx store and Jennifer is attempting the fax. Busy. Once more. Busy. Three times busy, and I said thank you I have six more days and I will be back or mail them again and I will call them and confirm receipt and have a nice day. Ok, sorry, she said, good luck.
Well, no squirrels in that really, but I could deal with it. Coco, A., and I got back on the streetcar with no appended attendant and decided to eat lunch. Deadline? What deadline I am thinking. It is barely noon and I have seen so many bushy tails that I am famished.
Coco wanted to go to doggie care for a couple of hours, and there is a place that A. likes because the owner is from Syria and is friendly to the elderly (but not to dogs), and I like it for the best lentil soup I have ever had, better than what I make at home. On the way, there was David, an acquaintance of A.’s from church hopping. He has been sick with the flu, and yet when introduced he reached out a hand in greeting. So did I, and then held that hand to my side, slightly separated from every other surface on my body, in perpetuity, or until I could wash wash wash, busy busy busy, ridding my being of the virus, decreasing my chances of infection much more than a flu shot from what I hear (didn’t get that shot this year, believing in breaking the law of probability and in the power of a turmeric concoction if I feel anything bad coming on).
The cafe was warm and inviting, and with my other hand I got the restroom key and went to flush away germs, and then pray. Hallucinating from hunger, I am sure I saw a squirrel in the restroom.
I ordered a bowl of the soup (which comes with just enough full-textured bread to leave a clean bowl, and they have real butter out there at room temperature, the only way to taste all that only butter can give), and an Italian soda with raspberry, no ice. In a strange fit of fancy I almost felt obligated to pay extra to lack something–ice–because it cuts into their profit margin to fill the glass without it. But it would have been too fancy to say anything.
Well, I told A., this was a good day. I am thinking about all the occasions on which I had seen squirrels for the past several hours and even here at the cafe with its warmth and lentils and butter, but what I said was, “The only thing is that I need to fax those forms so I am covered!” Just then, my phone chimed with a voice message. It was Jennifer from FedEx, who had only been able to get my number by taking the time to print the cover sheet to the attempted fax, I knew. “Hi Timothy, this is Jennifer from FedEx and I wanted to let you know that your fax did go through after you left, and you may stop by at your convenience to pay, as well as to get the confirmation page that it went through.”
I swear that I saw more than one squirrel standing barefoot on smooth stones and one was smelling that rose. After leisurely lentils, and bowl sopping, and then a final taste of a broken loaf with that butter, A. who had finished her oatmeal, went to get Coco. I walked to a shop, bought a small piece of fine chocolate and a pad of post-it notes, asking the clerk for a small piece of ribbon. I wrote Jennifer a note of thanks for superlative customer service. I wrapped the ribbon around the package (another elderly woman at the streetcar stop loaned me her finger to push the intersect of ribbon while I tied the knot), and then I hopped back on the streetcar to FedEx where I paid a small price for a day that was fine indeed. I will write an email to FedEx, ensuring that Jennifer gets a commendation while she enjoys the chocolate that made her actually squeal when she saw it.
And now I am here again, full circle in the loop of space-time, seeing squirrels at the coffee shop.
It’s all just nuts . . .
Photography and Text © 2017, Timothy Waugh