Seattle Cliches

[written in 2011]

 

Let’s wish we could find a way to make coffee and fingernails sound poetic. I want to write about the paint on my clothes and the smell of smoke absorbed by my skin. The holes in the soles of my feet and the holes in my mind, but I can’t find a reason to write in the dark. It’s much scarier under beautiful stars when you realize you’re in a city, an alleyway of broken windows and broken hearts laid out neatly in the dust of dirty thoughts and suicides. There will come a day when Starbucks aprons are believed to be a sign that multiple gods exist in our atmosphere when Microsoft stops autocorrecting the I before E rule and “I” no longer needs to be capitalized like God does. I believe dead spirits that walk among us in the bodies of the depressed. Stumbling outside reality in a cloud of unhappy until they master a way to find artsiness in the darkness. They can hear themselves breathing, but can’t decide whether they should hold their breath in to retain life until it evaporates as nothing from their lungs or if it’s better to let white noises crawl under their skin until they’re crazy. The people here are crazy. Driven mad by stop signs and running through red lights until they’ve reached a destination of uneasiness. How he knows he never really loved her because the poetry he wrote when they were together was shit. We’re show-offs to cover insecurity. Cheering hard for losing baseball teams and avoiding ignorance. We never lose hope and that’s where our music comes from. The one thing we deserve to take pride in. That’s soul burning down our esophagus until it warms us in the depths of stomach acid. It took a lot of time on Google Images, searching for pictures of physical deformities to learn that not everyone is born with two eyes, not everyone is everyone else’s idea of human. Where we rip the seams in our rain jackets as an early weather forecast hoping the sun will peak through the clouds we’ve created with wrist pollution. Where we say “fuck” too much and “love” like it’s sacred. Where we believe pop cans and soda bottles and newspapers and microwave dinner boxes deserve a second life through recycling. We’re superstitious. We use eyes to see into souls and window reflections make us nervous with the anticipation of seeing someone we don’t want to look at, we don’t trust, so as a result some of us stop trusting in God. All we’ve known to have grasp of is the sidewalk in which we walk to reach places we’ve never been, but we never venture too far for that would mean chance of facing unacceptance and non-hipsters. We believe that wearing t-shirts with skulls on them makes us brave ‘cause it’s a scary thought that the only place you’ll ever feel safe is in the lap of your mother. So as Seattlites we search for Mother Nature in everything. We just want to be hopeful. We just want to be happy. We’re trying to find the light. Where social status is decided by how many rings are on your fingers and how clean your dreadlocks are. How much makeup can you go without and still be beautiful? Be organic. So we smile crooked-teeth and let our fingernails grow yellow between cigarettes as we say welcome to the city, welcome to Seattle. Here, we do art.

An Open Letter to My Barista

 

Dear Barista Girl,

I usually get home at 6:30 in the morning, tiptoeing from my SUV to my front door with my duffel bag and a coffee in hand. My neighbors all think I work the night shift. I do work the night shift. I also work the day shift. Sometimes I work 48 hours in a row. After that, I lose count.

You see, I live a double life. I am half emergency room technician, half firefighter. Often times I get off one 12-hour shift to go straight to another. Occasionally, I get to go home and sleep in the bed that I paid for. And sometimes, I stop for coffee in between. This morning, you were my barista.

There are some things nobody should ever have to see. I have seen a lot of them. Especially for someone who is less than a quarter-century old. I don’t talk about it often because there are still people who have seen far more than I have and the ones that haven’t don’t need to carry my burdens. But I’ve seen it. Husbands having heart attacks in the hospital room down the hall from where their wives died a month ago. Babies born fully intact, but too early to live. People so smashed in their cars that you can’t identify what body parts are what. Little kids not breathing with self-inflicted bruises around their necks. Gunshot wounds, chainsaw wounds, rabid animal bites… Between my two jobs, I perform CPR on someone roughly once a week. Some people like to throw out words like “hero” and “brave” and “strong,” but I am just another broken human drifting around the shadows of the world trying to keep other people afloat.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my jobs. I love them the same way you love yours. I just have days that make me feel the same way Frappy Hour makes you feel.

And I am tired. I am so tired. And my coworkers are so tired. And you… you are exorbitantly and wonderfully caffeinated. And this morning, as I sauntered into your workplace in a uniform that included red eyes, smoke-filled hair, saliva dried to the corners of my lips, and a mind filled heavy with replays of last night’s calls, I barely heard you cheerfully thank me for my service.

You looked so confused when I, very seriously, returned the thanks. So let me explain, Barista Girl. You are my hero. In this moment and in every moment in which my performance relies solely on how much coffee I’ve had that day. I believe just about every emergency responder will agree that you make a difference in the world so deep and you don’t even notice.

You fill our cups with the magic stuff that wakes us up, keeps us alert, and helps us work efficiently. You fill our cups after the 3am calls that didn’t turn out so great and help us wash down what we don’t want to remember. You fill our cups in the evening before drills where we practice over and over again so if we haven’t had our coffee before the real thing, our muscle memory will hopefully carry us through.

And I notice you. I know you’re on your feet all day trying to please the unpleasable. I know the smells of work follow you home and your apron has a permanent place in your passenger seat. I know you are probably overworked and, despite the number of espresso shots you sneak between customers, you go home tired just like the rest of us. But gosh, Barista Girl, with your unending smiles and wishful thinking and overall positivity, you just mean so much to me.

You are responsible for keeping the rest of us going. And that is a responsibility I can’t even fathom.

So I thank you for your service, Barista Girl. And my patients thank you for mine.