So, the cafe seems empty, but isn’t. A few anthropomorphic shadows fill the difficult voids. I sit, with slight discomfort from attempting to ascertain my place in the room. I am customer, young, perhaps waiting. I try and break my mould by removing a book from my pocket. I have decided to be alone but my self consciousness betrays my waiting. I want to tell each individual that I am not waiting for anyone, merely passing some time, in from the cold. I look around me and the cafe still seems empty. I readjust in my seat. Try to read the first paragraph, acutely aware that it is the first page, and would feel so much more comfortable midway through. Try again, but the phrases mix with my thoughts, each time sub-consciously returning to the first words. An octopus? Return again to them.
My attention is waning for the book, my mind straying. “Hi, there.”
“Hi. Could I get a coffee. Just filter. Cheers”
The exchange is forgotten. - “It was a dream. No, it wasn’t.” My mind skims the words fast, the implications faster. Style, pace, double meaning. Pretensions, translation. Again the paragraph is lost and my eyes track back to the beginning. While my vacant stare feels along the words in a mockery of myself, I feel another imaginary stare taking me in. Waiting. Tense. I am neither of these things. Now both. Again the words elude me, my focus lost. As an exercise, I read the paragraph again, taking no meaning, just a sense. A feeling from the choice of words, resenting anything more. Great beads of blood? Sweat? A sense of heaviness and penance. The octopus is a dream. No, perhaps not.
My coffee arrives and for the first time I get a real sense of outside involvement in my activity. It is only a glance, but reminds me, beyond my perception of events, I am still on this page. If anyone cares or has noticed, they know I am involved in unrelated thought or suspect me of serious study. Strangely, I am neither. Now both. Adding sugar and laughing at myself, the situation, the pettiness, I glance around at the empty cafe, nodding a vague hello at the occupant of another table. Through carelessness, through absent-mindedness, I have spilled some coffee into the saucer. It is a large cup, I notice, with too small a handle, as I mop the spillage with a tissue. Again I laugh, but more through discomfort than actual amusement, though this amuses me.
Relaxing, the book is making stabs at sense. “Everywhere the same catastrophe.” “The very air was in a fever.” I put the book back in my pocket, its sense not welcome. I arrange my hands deliberately, sipping my coffee. I look around the empty cafe, expecting too much. Then rise. I guess I don’t feel like a cup of coffee right now.
A New Theory of Distraction | The New Yorker -
4 weeks ago