the coffee shop at the end of the holidays

A coffee shop on Christmas Day, should you be fortunate enough to find one that is open, is a very strange place. Elsewhere on the street are cafes, but those are closed. This is a coffee shop – no mucking around with snobby French words. Here, you find displaced persons, orphans, Jews, the homeless, and those who generally have nowhere else to be. They sit quietly in this small San Francisco run-down coffee shop that serves lukewarm coffee-flavoured water, week-old donuts, whose green mold you notice has festively grown its own red mold (perhaps a new species), with eclectic art cluttering all available wall space – moose heads festooned with jingling bells and an oversized poster of Elvis Prestley’s Christmas album cover.

The Korean lady taking your money smiles at you and, overly enthusiastically you think, wishes you a Merry Christmas. She bares her surprisingly white teeth in an overtly cheery gesture. You picture her face superimposed on Santa Claus’ body, a tiny, meek, visage largely masked by a huge white beard, like a shriveled Asian grandmother peaking out through the clouds. Asian Santa is watching you. You imagine this Santasian in the middle of Union Square ringing her bell, smiling, and chanting, “ho- ho- ho-” in that, not uncharming, halting way old Asian ladies pronounce their o‘s, without the rounded w at the end.

Coffee in hand, you sit down in a corner of the shop by the window with a view of the street. Soon, you realize that there is nothing to see, save for a what you imagine is a hobo chasing a tumbleweed, which you imagine is his dinner, and you imagine yelling after him, “Good luck! Happy hunting!” The occasional whimsically dressed twenty something walks past with a cool expression of boredom on his face. You observe his brightly coloured socks, lightly rolled-up jeans, 80’s orange-and-pink track jacket, and mittens tied to his wrists and wonder what happened in his life to cause him to clearly revert to his childhood in such a way. Images of his parents dressing him in a black suit and tie as a child and shoving a briefcase into tiny hands flutter through your head. Poor kid, you think. Rock on, my infantile friend.

You notice the row of internet geeks tap-tapping away at their keyboards and start to imagine first a rhythm then a melody to their typing. A techno version of the Flintstones theme song soon emerges. Flint-douche-stones-douche-meet-douche-the-douche-Flint-douche-stones-wawawa-douche-douche. The fat man in the corner starts harmonizing in his deep baritone. Dom-dom-dom-dom-dom-dooom. The geeks start bobbing their heads, building up to a crescendo as their mussy hair is flung about wildly. Whitesnake lovers of the new millennium.

A fat lady joins the fat man in the corner and he promptly halts the music with a swift conductor’s clutch at the air. The techno-geeks stop their typing in deference. You have a good view of the two portly figures in front of you. From the side it appears as if they are a pair of chubby squirrels with nuts stuffed in their cheeks having a staring contest, quietly comparing cheek and nut sizes. The nuts shift in each of their mouths as they continue to slowly chew on their lower lips. But wait – you realize the two are enamoured with one another and the chubby squirrels are actually on a chubby date. Rodents in love, you think, how cute. He mentions something about being a Berkeley philosophy major and your instantly lose interest.

You take a sip of the, now completely frigid, coffee and notice a girl with what can only be described as the colourful striped dismembered sleeves of an extremely festive Christmas sweater. You wonder what the Christmas sweater looked like. Reindeer? Moose facing each other? The silouehettes of coyotes necking under mistletoe? Festive-sleeves is staring at you overtly – definitely making eyes. Well, maybe eye, singular, since the eyepatch she has donned (complete with skull and crossbones symbol) leaves the contents of her eye socket a mystery. You notice a slight seductive smile form on her face and a little bit of spittle run down from the corner of her mouth and find yourself wondering how she would be in bed – if she would act anything like a deranged horse spooked by lightening during a horrible thunderstorm. You suspect that this is indeed the case, and decide you can’t afford the medical bills just now.

You turn back to your coffee and notice that a pirate ship has been preparing to board a Spanish Galleon and raid it for it’s golden contents. You swirl the coffee about and create a small tempest, watching the pirates and Spanish naval officers alike cling for dear life to whatever they can get their hands on. Trumpets blare and tensions mount. Prayers are yelled and half-mumbled to an all-knowing god, presumably you, as the little men in your cup seek to avoid a watery-coffee grave. You listen for a few more seconds, then gulp the whole thing down – tiny screams all the way down your throat.

You are bored. The coffee shop is awfully boring, not much happening outside your imagination, so you step outside and light your last cigarette, leaning on your vintage (rusted) Schwinn bicycle like a wealthier man would lean on his brand new Porsche 911 Turbo. You try to look cool for passerby’s, but realize no one is actually passing by, so you turn to look at the window and try to look cool for your own reflection. You don’t seem impressed, and neither does the elderly couple sitting on the other side of the window. In fact, they look confused. A homeless man stumbles up to you and asks you for a smoke, and you find yourself telling him that the one in your mouth is your last one. He waves you away, saying “you don’t need to explain yourself,” when you dig through the garbage bin to show him your discarded cigarette pack – irrefutable proof that you were being truthful.

You realize this is probably the low point of your day – explaining to a homeless man why you cannot give him a cigarette – and decide it’s about time to leave. You hop on your Schwinn and noisily ride away, the cyclops girl staring longingly at the back of your head.

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7 thoughts on “the coffee shop at the end of the holidays

  1. I really like the paragraph beginning with: You take a sip of the, now completely frigid, coffee and notice a girl with what can only be described as the colourful striped dismembered sleeves of an extremely festive Christmas sweater.

    The whole account could make a good short film.

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