Week 4 - Coffee Part I (June 24-30)
Myra hunched over her laptop, furtively browsing Facebook mindlessly while trying to give a pretense of working - to whom, exactly, she wasn’t sure - while she waited for the hour to pass.
It was late afternoon on a Thursday, and sunlight forced its way through the half shuttered windows of the coffee shop with oppressive summer heat. The coffee shop was nearly deserted, partly because it was late afternoon on a Thursday, and partly because the heat was getting overwhelmingly unbearable.
Myra was sitting alone in a corner of the shop, perched on a high stool with an uncomfortably non-existent backrest. The shop had installed wooden slabs across two of the walls of the store that served as workbenches, and Myra was hunkered over one of these now, half checking her Facebook feed and half wondering about the purpose of her life.
Myra wiped a few beads of sweat from her forehead as she tried to force herself back on task. She was finding it exceedingly difficult to focus. Part of the problem likely stemmed from the fact that she wasn’t really sure what she should be focusing on.
She liked to say that she was in between jobs, but the longer she went on saying that, the more it sounded like a lie. Being in between jobs implied that there was a job waiting on the other side. Myra wasn’t so sure that was the case. Getting a job involved, at a bare minimum, knowing what you wanted to do with your life. Myra did not know what she wanted to do with her life.
It still astounded her how quickly everything had fallen apart. Last year, at twenty-five, her life had seemed like the definition of certain. She’d been a journalist at the Daily Chronicle since graduating college. She’d been a girlfriend at the Josh and Myra Chronicles even longer. She had figured a promotion to editor was imminent, and a promotion to wife was merely a matter of course.
Then one night Josh drops the tiny little bombshell.
“You’re not sure about us? What does that even mean?” She remembers yelling.
“We’ve just been together so long. I feel like I haven’t had the chance to be myself. I just need some space.” His excuses rang like little mines detonating in her head.
“Space? What the fuck?!” Myra doesn’t remember when the chair got thrown, but she does remember picking up the pieces alone, splinters mixing with her tears to add injury to insult.
It might have been a salvageable situation, but it was difficult to salvage the pieces of something when you were still busy further crushing them to infinitesimal bits and burning the obliterated remains for good measure. Myra had to admit that she did not handle the situation exceedingly well.
Still recovering - poorly - from that first painful separation, she was in no position to defend herself when the second came. It did not surprise her terribly much when she was determined to be target number one in the Daily Chronicle’s latest round of layoffs, and she left without much fuss. Her output of the past few months had been wanting at best. She couldn’t argue with that. Her heart for her work had gone out with the rest of her heart, anyway. She’d been glad for the excuse to leave at first.
It was months later now, however, and the initial feelings of relief at the freedom to start her life anew had now transmogrified into a deep seated pit of fear and uncertainty that she would never find purpose and meaning again, and would also die alone.
She found herself going through the motions of life, but with increasingly less conviction behind the rote steps society seemed to dictate she should take. Job. Yes. People get jobs. She should get a job. Why? Money. Yes. Money is good and necessary for life. She should get money. Jobs give you money. She should get a job and then get money. This was a good, solid, societally approved plan.
Was that it? Weren’t you supposed to love your job and live a life full of passion? She couldn’t remember what she had loved so much about journalism. Had she ever really loved it? The more time that passed, the less she felt excited about ever writing again. If she wasn’t going to write, though, what else could she possibly do? She’d spent her entire career honing a craft she no longer identified with, and now had no other marketable talents. Myra felt useless.
She felt more like she was pretending to live than really living. Did everyone feel this way? She couldn’t remember what it was like to not be existential. She knew that certainly not everyone lived this way - she even knew for a fact that she, herself, had lived not this way until rather recently - but for the life of her, she couldn’t fathom how anyone possibly lived any differently.
“Is this seat taken?”
Myra jumped a small inch in her stool. She had gotten so lost in her own head she’d forgotten she was in a public space. It was so rare that anyone spontaneously interacted with each other anymore that public spaces all felt private, anyway. She’d started seeing other people as just part of the backdrop. No different from a painting. Their lives would never intersect, and hence they were nothing more than scenery.
Now, however, she looked up, and yes, standing right there next to her was a real live human being staring at her with large hazel eyes and a slight tilt in his head.
“Oh! Um, no! Please, go ahead.” she stammered, still startled.
“Thanks. My name’s Cole, by the way.” He stuck out his hand in greeting as he pulled the stool to her right back and slid into the seat.
Maya shook his hand. He had a firm, confident grip. Suddenly, she was self conscious about how hot and stuffy the room was. She was dripping sweat. Her hands were uncomfortably clammy. She quickly retracted her hand shyly.
“Hi. Um, my name’s Maya.” she managed in reply.