Take Another Look











{March 15, 2010}   Seattle

“You want a sleeve, dahling?” the barista says in his metro sexual tone of voice. I show him the tip of my brown sweatshirt. “Sleeve,” I repeat harmlessly. He reacts with a quaint mixture of how cute with it’s Seattle so it’s romantic and cool. Seattle is like Paris but instead of being about young love and young promise, it is about youth, illusion, and hardship. The promises broken, the naiveté shed, the days that repeat endlessly because you want your love to be more than a song. The hard edges come out, but the metal is the color of a hundred rainbows folded over on top of one another. Too many visions for it to come together. Graffiti too dense to wash over. The mixture is complete. Nodding Off Guy sits in a corner with his creepy stare, his jaundiced skin, and his battled veins. I’ve seen his face around these streets since I was twelve. Two asian girls sit with their calculators dedicated on solving a problem. A man with glasses and shorts and a big mug sits, wearing cache shorts that seem age inapropirate with his thin grey hair as he eyes a magazine, his square glasses stating “I must be an editor of something unimportant but recognized by a small number of people.” A woman of mixed descent wears a scarf and listens to music, her head going up and down. A girl sits on a couch surface, her toes curled up, reading The Stranger and cuddling up inside herself. Just another sunday night, the end to a start of a week. An old man with a hat sits down next to Nodding Off Guy and makes it his night to stare around observing everybody. The baristas do a quick sweep of the room. I remember the last time I was here, my friend saying “what a mix, oh, what a mix.” The music sings in a honey tone, edging everybody on with the lyrics “I feel good,” the song “I Got you” by James Brown.  I can almost feel Janis Joplin in this song but this music is celebration, and there isn’t enough edge for there to be a Janis song. Instead of “can’t do you no harm” she’d be singing “Oh you do me harm, and it feels good, what should I do?” This whole city is beating, it is a heart, it has veins all over the place, veins it doesn’t know what to do with. Veins that are blocked by cholesterol, veins that are blissed out by needle pricks filled with speed or heroin or both. Anything to speed up the mixture of colors. The city says, do it, do it now before you lose the chance. It is the place to lose everything because the next morning you won’t know what hit you or what you lost. The chances, they build up on you like drops on a flower until the flower falls over and the water hits the ground, splattering onto the sidewalk. There is too much color, not enough production. Too much possibility, not enough opportunity. Too much talent, not enough agents. Too much risk, not enough safety. There is a big divide. There is no stealth here, and everybody pretends to be a star. Everybody is young, and everybody can dress how they want. Everybody is immune to judgement, and nobody speaks to each other unless that person is giving you your coffee jolt. Only when you work as a barista do you learn about the people around you. And then you find that they need your inane small talk more than they need their java. You ask them how they are and they erupt. But ask the same person how they are when they are alone, cornered in their space, reading the paper or eyeing the room, and they will guffaw and find another chair. It’s just the way of the city. Don’t approach unless you are below 21 or can pass for 21, or are in the company of somebody who floats like an It-Girl butterfly, attracting party flavor energy everywhere you go. Putting everything into 3-d if need be, or giving everybody orange glasses to see the world from. People need limits, you hear? Just tell them to see it from one shade and you will be the babysitter that helps them as they travel within this acid trip, trying to make something of themself.

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