Once a month, sometimes less, I work the counter at Real Coffee down on Main as a excuse to talk to people I don’t know. I’ve lived in this little house in this tiny town for one week shy of six years and I barely know a soul. They all seem to know eachother, but I’m still just meeting people–Daun’s lackey for a Friday night open mic.
I have a knack for customer service and frothing milk.
Last Friday was wet and nearly freezing, but the place was chock full and flowing with beer and wine for the Art Crawl door prize drawing at the end of the night–$400 worth of stuff from local businesses. All was merry and bright.
Coffee, pizzas, spinach and artichoke dip, chai, folding chairs, bongos, female front singers, chitter-chat. Two women up at the counter ordered a second of something. I was being fresh. I’m often fresh behind a coffee counter, it’s the power of the steam. “She’s not from around here.” One lady said to the other, then she said to me, “You’re not from around here, are you? Do you live here?”
I stopped ring-a-ding-dinging on the cash register and looked at her with a smirk. Why do I get this question all the time in whichever city or town I’m in? I do. All. The. Time. This time it was friendly. This time it grinned. “You just look not-from-around-hereish,” she said which meant she’d never noticed me skulking down Main Street with two small girls and quacking like a duck.
Thank you very much, Me, you’ve done wonders keeping yourself an outsider in every town and every neighborhood you’ve ever lived in. And yet…
As writers writing do we need to stay objective, to see things outside ourselves, to let people feel we are other and in that otherness to collect, arrange and solidify fragments of life on which to meditate?
As writers writing do we have an unconscious agenda to place ourselves in the midst of motion in order to get a feel for the human state of things?
As a writer writing am I really all that special or am I just play acting a role I’ve laid out to bequeath the other me, the shy one in the corner sucking her thumb?
I don’t know. I don’t know. But I do know I’m not the only one in this room sidled up to the wall.
“While I am writing, I’m far away;
and when I come back, I’ve gone.
I would like to know if others
go through the same things that I do,
have as many selves as I have,
and see themselves similarly;
and when I’ve exhausted this problem,
I’m going to study so hard
that when I explain myself,
I’ll be talking geography.”
–from “We Are Many” by Pablo Neruda /Translated by Alexander Reid