So I’m sitting in the coffee house, and it’s usually the same people in here every day; I know what to expect. There’s the lady who must sit at her exact table to such an extreme that once, when the whole place was empty my friend unknowingly sat at that table. When I arrived, I joined her there, and when the woman arrived, she looked really irritated but sat down next to me, harrumphing but not saying anything to us. So, empty coffee shop, 12 other free tables, you get it. We moved, because we’re flexible that way, and that’s the good thing about this town. We work around each other for the most part, like that movie Lars and the Real Girl. I think if I conjured up an inflatable friend, people would just go along with it and include my inflatable friend in whatever is going on. (Not that I'm anywhere close to being the person with an inflatable friend. Sheesh.)
But the main thing is that it’s a little slice of our sweet quirky town. A week or so ago, one of my neighbors arrived with a large garbage sack full of tee-shirts from what he referred to as “the secret Buddhist dumpster,” and told me to take as many as I wanted. The shirts were leftover from the Dalai Lama’s visit in 2008. I took two, walked across the street and mailed one to R., and one I’m saving for when I need that sort of thing, the sort of gift that should be from the SBD. My neighbor was just acting as the middle man – he didn’t know exactly where the dumpster was; he was just tasked with giving the shirts away.
A few days later, the lawnmower repairman came in and sat with me for a minute, saying the same thing: “Betsy, do you want some tee shirts? I got these from the secret Buddhist dumpster. You can have as many as you want.”
“Oh, D. gave me a couple the other day. I think I’m set.”
“No, really, you can have more. I can set you up. Don’t be shy. I can’t tell you where the Buddhist dumpster is, but I can get you stuff.” Which is just so kind I can hardly bear it sometimes.
And none of this seems weird until I start telling someone, and they’re like, “Wait. Back up. So you’re just sitting by yourself and some guy walks up with a garbage sack full of tee shirts and a story about a secret Buddhist dumpster? Is this a true story?”
The other really nice thing is that I can just walk in and sit down and eventually, H. will appear with my exact kind of coffee, and I don’t have to say anything if I don’t feel like it. Or sometimes it gets even better, like when I ordered a ham and cheese corn muffin, and she said, “do you want that the secret special way?”
If anyone ever asks you that, you’re an idiot if you say no.
Writing here is like that.
But this morning, some guy I didn’t recognize walked in and started talking to one of the regulars. What I overheard:
“Yeah, I’m done with her. I’m sick of her screaming at me for three hours every night. Every night, some damn thing or another for three hours. I didn’t do this, or didn’t do that, or I don’t make enough money, or I did something wrong. And I got her a goddamn house overlooking the lake, it’s worth $800K, and I put in a hot tub. I don’t know what her problem is. So I’m looking at the weather, and as soon as it’s nice, I’m outta there. I’m taking my shit and I’m outta there. I don’t know what her problem is. The only thing I’m sad about is the dog.”
And I wrote that down, not to be creepy, but because a good writing exercise is to write down what people actually say so you can practice dialog. But all I could think was, Oh, the humans. The poor humans and their suffering.
Anyway, I was thinking how angry and sad he seemed, but also curious that he seemed to know everyone. Like, stranger comes to town but he isn’t a stranger? And then after a little bit he walked over to my table and said, “wow, Betsy?! Hey, it’s been a long time. Great to see you!” And then I pretended to know who he was, and just thought, ugh, the humans. They do suffer.