Spotify Stalker

Spotify

Everyone at the coffee shop had a Mac except me. This was likely the case all along but the amount of people inside the shop due to the heat wave made it obvious. I bought my PC laptop used on Amazon from guy whose username was a mix of a date – most likely his birthday – and gen one Pokemon. The laptop ran on Windows 7. It wasn’t great in any way but it was mine. I used it to work, play Minecraft and watch porn.

Alex: Enjoying Taylor Swift?

I expected Alex to message me at this point in the afternoon. It was four on the east coast, and I knew by then he’d given up on work for the day.

Me: Maybe I am. I saw you listening to Beyoncé yesterday.

Alex: Yeah, but Beyonce’s done some great stuff. She’s earned my respect.

A man walked over and sat across from me at the back table where I always worked. He pulled from his leather bag a Mac and placed it on the counter. Over the Apple logo was a sticker of a different logo, one I didn’t recognize.

Me: Watch it, buddy or I’ll take you off my friends list.

I watched the man drink a an iced mocha from a large glass he placed next to his Mac. Anything helped, including this back table underneath the AC. I was surprised no one figured this out before this guy.

I wasn’t going to take Alex off my friends list but I did want to see what he’d say. He was the only guy I kept in contact with from high school. This was a recent development. I ran into him at the beach when I was home two months ago. Before then we hadn’t talked in years.

Alex: I’m just fucking with you.

I looked up and noticed the man was waving at me. I pulled out my left earbud.

“Do you mind watching my stuff for a sec?” he asked.

“No problem,” I said.

The man nodded and walked out with his phone in his hand. That guy was like me. He didn’t want to take calls in the coffee shop. That’s just rude, especially when someone’s sitting across from you, enjoying the AC because it’s so damn hot everywhere else.

Me: Yeah I know, sorry about that.

Alex: You haven’t changed since high school. You’re still so sensitive.

Me: Wow man, like you’ve changed so much? Tell your mom and dad I said hi when you go home.

“Thanks man,” the guy said and sat back down.

I nodded, replaced my earbud and looked back to my screen. Nothing. After twenty minutes I saw Alex signed off, or made himself invisible. I scrolled through my Spotify feed and looked at who was listening to what. Most of those I followed I hadn’t talked to in a while.

I stretched my arms and accidentally pulled out my earbuds from the computer jack. Taylor Swift blasted from my laptop speaker. The man looked up to me and laughed, hard. He laughed and shook his head with his eyes shut.

Me: Feel free to jab at me for listening to Taylor Swift whenever.

Whether Alex read my message I wasn’t sure. But that guy’s laughter. It played in my head long after I left the shop and into the heat.

The Dogs

Outside the tables were surrounded by chairs occupied by those who wanted nothing more than to enjoy the sunshine. Or so I thought. Some opened the umbrellas and adjusted the position of the metal chairs they sat in. Was the sun a little too bright? The sky a little too blue?

Some of the tabletops were covered with plates of egg biscuit sandwiches, the coffee shop’s special. Others were covered with black coffee mugs and glass tea pots. The Sunday paper was spread out on another, pulled apart by section. as if it were a tablecloth.

Underneath all the tables and chairs lay the dogs. Retrievers and terriers and pugs, just as diverse as their owners above them. They were calm and quiet; trained and obedient. Some were on leads though most were not.

Sometimes I’d look one in the eye and sometimes I’d get a tail wag in return. Most of the time they’d stare at me for a moment, maybe lift and tilt their head, and then rest back on the concrete.

Last week I took the same seat like any other Sunday. I sipped my coffee and watched a few friends at a table a few feet away. The raised their glasses in a toast. The coffee shop was the closest thing to a brunch spot In this town. Their glasses clanked and a lab barked. Then a basset hound, followed by a Saint Bernard. Then the others. The owners bent over to try to calm down the larger ones. An older woman set her dog in her lap. Others screamed at theirs to shut the hell up.

Eventually they did shut up. Nobody knew what really happened. I didn’t, not until now, thinking it over in that same spot. The dogs were scared, yes, but maybe not just because of the glasses. What if that was the breaking point? What if all along, the sun was a little too bright? The sky just a little too blue?

Home is at the Coffee Shop

This morning at the coffee shop your upper back aches, along with your right shoulder. Your left thumb hurts too, but not so much. The chairs at this coffee shop don’t do much in the department of supporting backs. Then again, you suppose the owners never expected people to spend all their days at the coffee shop.

People like yourself. There are others like you – a few others. You often find yourself with these others at the table in the back of the coffee shop. You nod to each other and then go about your business. Programing or making calls or writing in WordPress.

You go to the coffee shop every day because you need to get out of your apartment. You live alone in a one bedroom that’s empty except for the television, to which is connected an original Nintendo. You haven’t played that Nintendo in years, but you brought it to college and then to Philadelphia and now to Denver.

“Live” is a peculiar word, at least for you, like the word “home.” The scale has tipped so that you now spend more time at the coffee shop than you do at your apartment. In a sense, you “live” at the coffee shop.

This almost changed once, when for three days in a row you sat across from this young woman with red hair and blue-framed glasses. You nodded to each other on the first day then got to work. The second day you talked with each other for two hours. The third day you fucked.

The morning after you joked about fucking at the coffee shop. She laughed then said she was glad you came over. She lived on the other side of town and she drove a beat up forerunner. It was a gift from her father, she said. Otherwise she wouldn’t have a car.

You said in that case, she was meant to find you. Without the car, she would have stayed closer to her studio and not have explored the rest of town.

She smiled and then told you she would no longer be visiting the coffee shop. She just moved from Seattle and had some time off before her job started. She took a software engineer position at a start-up and would be working long hours.

That was fine, you said, because you had a plan. You could see each other after work. You both could trade off making dinner, one night at her place and one night at yours. For that moment, the thought of being in your apartment didn’t seem so bad. And if you happened to spend the night at her place, you could take the bus back to the coffee shop. You knew it would work. She said it would work too.

Nevertheless, you haven’t seen her in months. You stopped texting her to make dinner plans or grab a drink at a happy hour because she stopped responding. Your body aches because you fell asleep yesterday at the coffee shop. It was only six – closing time – but you fell asleep anyways. You find it harder to sleep at your apartment and you’re afraid you’ll fall asleep at the coffee shop again. You assured the barista it wouldn’t happen again but you’re still unsure.

But that doesn’t matter at the moment – someone’s walking to the back table, and you’re ready to nod and treat them like a guest.

Twitter Feed

Because some people get all the engagements…

Stevie was standing on line at the coffee shop, checking his twitter feed. He saw a YouTube celebrity he followed posted a photo. This celebrity posted ten seconds before. The tweet stats were as follows:

54 likes
22 retweets
9 comments

Jesus, Stevie thought to himself. He refreshed his feed. The tweet stats were as follows:

122 likes
78 retweets
23 comments

Jesus, Stevie thought again to himself.

“Sir can I help you?” the cashier asked.

Stevie ordered his sixteen ounce cup of black coffee, paid the two dollars – plus another fifty cent tip – and found a table. He refreshed his feed. The tweet stats were as follows:

224 likes
104 retweets
58 comments

All of this in just over two minutes. What the fuck, Stevie thought. He clicked into the tweet and scrolled through the comments.

“Looks lovely”
“OMG so jelly”
“Wish I was there”
“Jelly”
“I know where to have bae take me”

The coffee burnt Stevie’s lips so he pushed the mug to the side. Hotter than usual, he thought. He then continued reading, forgetting that the coffee ever burned his lips at all.

So many symbols! Stevie never used symbols in his tweets and prided himself on that. He recalled one of his followers commenting on this in a good way, back when he only had twenty-something followers. Stevie was now up to fifty-two followers with tweets that didn’t use symbols. He chuckled. The symbols he chuckled at were as follows:

Smiley faces
Birthday cakes
Thumbs-up
Ghosts
Devil faces with little devil horns.

Stevie then remembered something from the only anthropology class he took in college. Something about how symbols were used to convey meaning, before letters and an alphabet.

So that where we were headed, Stevie thought. Our society’s regressing back to a time of signs and symbols and pictures.

Stevie brought the mug back to himself. He took a sip and his lips didn’t burn. He knew none of that was very important to him, at least not at the moment. Stevie refreshed his feed. He liked the tweet, retweeted the tweet and then left a comment, asking the YouTube celebrity to follow him.

Coffee Shop Tease

“You order an egg sandwich every day,” I said to my roommate Charlie. I walked with him to the coffee shop near the house we rented. We both understood the need for routine and adopted this as our morning office space.

Charlie said nothing and started eating. I didn’t mind the smell of the eggs and cheddar cheese. I would’ve ordered one everyday too. But seven dollars? That would have been thirty-five dollars a week, assuming I didn’t go to the coffee shop on weekends, which I almost always did. Thirty five dollars equaled a week’s worth of groceries.

We shared the table and kept to ourselves. I wanted to send thirty or so emails, but I was distracted. Distracted by a goddamn egg sandwich. Honestly, it was more about the money than the sandwich. I started calculating in my head the cost of cheddar cheese, a dozen eggs, and a loaf of bread. Fifteen dollars, tops, depending on the quality of each ingredient. If every sandwich contained two eggs, one slice of cheese and two slices of bread, I could have had six sandwiches a week.

Charlie left around eleven to our house for some scheduled Skype calls with his boss, who was based in New York City. I stayed because I still had twenty emails to send. Then I wanted to do some writing. Or watch YouTube videos.

“Is this seat taken?” this guy said. He was tall with a man-bun and a few day-old stubble, much like myself.

Now, I preferred to sit at a table by myself and only made exceptions for a couple people. But the coffee shop was popular and most people had to share tables. I avoided this, and a couple times made some excuse that I was saving a seat for my girlfriend. One time I said I was waiting for my grandmother, and the man next to me traded his seat for the other at my table, which had a shortened leg. No one wanted to sit in a chair that tilted, especially an old woman.

But this morning, I let this guy sit with me. I didn’t want to feel like a dick.

“You’re certainly busy typing away,” he said to me.

I nodded and smiled. “I have a deadline to meet,” I said, which I suppose was true. It depended on the deadline. The emails had to go out by end of day, that was true. But the other deadline I imposed on myself, that one was three days away. This guy I didn’t know didn’t need to know that.

I sent off another couple emails before I was distracted again. I wasn’t really a dick, I thought. I just didn’t like to be disturbed. I was a guy who was easily distracted, and if that meant not wanting strangers sharing a table with me that should have been alright.

But then, I thought, why did I go out to coffee shops in the first place? Didn’t I just invite myself to be interrupted? And the people here are typically friendly, otherwise they wouldn’t spend their days at coffee shops. Was I a goddamn coffee shop tease?

The waiter came over and served this guy an egg sandwich.

“You ever have one from here before?” this guy asked.

“Nope.”

“They’re freaking awesome.”

“Good for you.”

The guy let out a small laugh and returned to reading on his tablet.

Alright, now I really felt like a dick. He was probably regretting that he sat at my table. But it wasn’t my table. I chose to sit here just like the person before me, and the person after. Nothing at this coffee shop was mine.

Another hour or so passed and I finished sending off my emails. I was hopeful that I’d hear from someone this time. An interview was all I wanted.

“I’ll try the egg sandwich the next time I come here,” I said to the guy.

“You won’t regret it!”

That night I spent forty dollars on whiskey, greasy fries and a Lyft ride home.

Train Whistle

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I waited at a bus stop I didn’t usually wait at because I didn’t usually visit that part of town.

That morning I realized while sipping coffee and sitting next to this older guy with a horrible case of the sniffles that Saturday was my most routine, regimented day of the week.

“Now that can’t be!” I said to myself, or so I thought, because sniffle guy looked at me. The waiter then walked over with an egg sandwich I didn’t order.

“Your usual,” he said.

Sniffles guy sneezed, loudly.

I covered my food, not that he was facing me, or even that close to me. I was just paranoid like that.

I uncovered my food and messaged my roommate, telling him to force me out that night. Otherwise I would have stayed at the coffee shop all day, bought a bottle of diet soda at the gas station on my way home, and watched YouTube videos until I passed out.

“Sure thing buddy,” Tyler wrote back. I breathed a sigh of relief. I could now spend the rest of the afternoon at the coffee shop knowing that the second half of my Saturday would be different.

The bar I was meeting Tyler at was a bit out of the way, and there were at least three or four bus route combinations to take. This was before I had a car. I decided on the 24 up Broadway and waited another half hour for the 19. Lots of construction on the east side of town. I waited outside the Barnes & Noble and next to me was a college student with a backpack. We looked at each other and nodded.

I forgot how close I was to the railroad that cut through town. The train whistle sounded and the kid jumped.

“I used to work out here,” I said. “You get used to it.”

“What did you do?” he asked.

“The warehouses across the street. I worked there until recently.”

Bus 19 arrived and we both got on. We sat across from each other.

“I heard there was an accident out there,” he said.

“There was, but I quit beforehand,” I said.

Tyler and I drank at the bar for hours and then I left. Tyler said he’d be back soon but it was only eleven and the bars in our town closed at two.

Back at home I watched YouTube until three in the morning. Smosh parodies and Honest Movie Trailers. I heard Tyler come home and shut his bedroom door. I watched YouTube some more. Anything to get my mind off the accident. I was there when it happened. The station wagon stalled and the gate slammed on its roof. The driver jumped out just in time.

“Goddamn sniffles guy,” I thought and then passed out.

One Hour Off

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Ian wakes to his cell phone alarm and thinks “It’s still dark out,” but then remembers the following:

Daylight Savings Time

“This fucking sucks,” he thinks. “I can still see the moon out my window.”

He stands up and stretches and also remembers the following:

It’s Monday

I never put my clothes in the dryer last night.

“It is what it is,” he thinks.

—————————————————

At work his teammate Paul asks, “You still cool if I take lunch at 1:30 and you go before?”

“Sure thing,” Ian says, though he thinks “I didn’t eat breakfast until 10 because my stomach believes it’s only nine but I can’t go after Paul because I have a meeting at 2:30 and someone has to stay and monitor the phones.”

Paul nods and puts back on his headphones. If the phones aren’t ringing, Paul is listening to music. Run the Jewels II.

Ian hears the music from Paul’s headphones and thinks, “I still never put my laundry in the dryer.”

—————————————————

It’s 12:30 and Ian walks to the coffee shop across the street because he’s not hungry enough to go for the Italian sub he’s really in the mood for.

“I’ll take the chocolate chip cookie,” Ian says, pointing to the largest chocolate chip cookie behind the glass counter. He also orders a cup of espresso.

At the table he checks his Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and personal email. He sets his black Moleskine notebook on the table hoping he’ll jot down a sentence or two for his short story that he’s certain will end up in the Atlantic.

He scrolls through the Facebook updates and photos and Twitter posts and the following comes to mind:

What the hell does “bae” mean? Is it the same as “boo,” like I used in 2005?

Ian buys another cookie and heads back to the office and tells himself, “I’ll get that sub tomorrow.”

—————————————————

Back at his apartment Ian eats a toasted roast beef sandwich that’s still cold in the center because he’s hungry and impatient. He’s angry at himself for not eating a decent lunch even though he wasn’t hungry at 12:30 because his stomach thought it was 11:30.

He sits at his kitchen table still with the headache from the espresso and thinks “I needed the boost because waking up with the moon this morning left me fucking tired.” He thinks, “The espresso made it hard to concentrate. I tried to help a client on the phone and three times in a row I got his name wrong.”

Then comes the crash at nine.

“Too early,” Ian thinks while he sits at his desk scrolling through Twitter and Facebook on his laptop. To its side is the black Moleskine notebook hoping he’ll jot down a sentence or two before passing out.

Too late.

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