Good People Got Somethin' to Lose
Updated: Jan 25
Video to listen instead of read at bottom
In New York’s new winter, that kept us cool at around 50 degrees, I watched two souls meet from below street level. I stood silent and working and watching as I saw my past unfold in front of me. I spent that winter feeling like I was walking on a treadmill that was going 30 miles an hour, always falling face first … luckily often on my own pillow. It was the winter i spent doing my best to stay single so as to not become what occurred.
When they first started coming in we all made comments about the age difference after they closed the door and left. There was nothing we could do beyond make remarks about it, we were only the employees at the coffee shop their relationship blossomed at. I'd exchange brief glances, noticing the way he rubbed her hand while she tried to write and the way the usual drink she got before him changed to match his. The way her makeup and her wardrobe and her demeanor altered slowly.
It was like she sucked in her cheeks every time he was around. He was so much taller than her. I will never accept the way people have the power to change me and when I see it done in the backlit, basement coffee shop I can't help but imagine violence, like a superhero. curb stomping always feels the most satisfactory or at least it’s what comes to mind first.
In the beginning it was almost too cute to look at. the way they’d shuffle around each other, dance with each other's awkwardness, i believed in them… for a while. How they’d always fight to pay the bill and as time went on I noticed he’d always let her win. I watched the seasons pass like twilight. In and out of the fog I only found this relationship which I monitored in replacement of having one of my own. We’re all addicted to something.
Three times a week I’d watch their timidness around each other elope with the comfort that grew between them. Comfort is not always a good thing. Comfort can lead stray dogs to make a mess in your home and ask you to clean it up, and you will because you know they’d be on the street if you didn’t. As the comfort made a mess between them I'd expect to catch their shifting moods, and learned to imagine their night before the moment they walked through my cafe doors. And still as winter turned into spring we’d all make comments about the age difference as they turned to leave.
When it started to get warmer they went on a trip to India, we didn’t see them for a month and when they came back I saw both of them much less, after, of course, the initial visit where they presented their slideshow of vacation footage and beamed in the opportunity to show it off. She was the regular who had always come in and now .. I wondered where they were spending their time. When they did come in he would maintain his normal arrogance he stashed in conversations with me, making jokes he always assumed would go over my head but more often than not landed right on my nose. We’d smirk at each other as if we had inside jokes. She would watch us. I wondered who paid for the trip.
In bed at night after work they would often cross my mind. I found myself analyzing the small exchanges I had caught between them and looking for signs that something darker was going on than I thought, unfortunately this is something I do too naturally. It is hard to know when something is scary .. when something is bad .. when something is struggling. It is hard to know what decisions to make. It’s hard to know the difference. The morning after a particularly dauntful explosion session in my brain due to the ganja I was handed in my living room, I went to work. All day I waited for them to come in so as to occupy my obsessive mind as I felt the anxiety searching for something to latch onto. Eventually she stumbled in hooded and seemingly drunk, it was about three. She was the type of girl who never broke character, who stayed small behind him. She was consistent, she was sweet, she made an impression because of how little of an impression she made, and because I worried about her like I knew her. Today she came in, spoke low, kept her head down, she didn’t pretend to be the girl who laughs at everything. It reminded me of the time I drank a bottle of wine at noon during the pandemic and pretended I was in a music video for "27” while playing solitaire in my ex-boyfriend's dark room waiting for him to wake up. (true story) We know a girl only does such a thing when she is stuck.
For days I struggled with the idea that I would never know what happened, wondering if I should have asked, or helped, and going back and forth with my morals. I’ve had the men in my life insult me for having them, meanwhile they run rampant like they are on a hunt and the world is their prey. The power is in how you think about things, and sometimes, I guess, how everyone thinks about things. Having influence over people is … reckless.
You can tell a person is really losing control when they begin to act especially normal. When you see them and they smile bigger than they used to but something in their eyes is so off putting you take notice. Like when someone’s energy takes over the room. For example, there’s this crackhead that comes in sometimes. By crackhead I mean I would've had no idea if he didn’t actually start smoking crack in the cafe and acted shocked when my coworker told him he wasn’t allowed to do that here. It was surprising because he always looked so put together, except his eyes were so scary I couldn’t look at them. They were black holes, I swear. There’s this other guy who comes in, he negatively took over the room so much my coworker and I had knives ready on the counter, worried about what he might do. He stared at us through his eyebrows and he wouldn’t stop until I decided I would start staring back. This experience was intense but when he came back in a week later I realized that he might just be autistic. It’s in the way processing is just thinking about something over and over and over again until you no longer do, tapping into that artistic side of your brain we’ll meet escapism, metaphors, art. We’ll make ideations and my copywriting boss will be proud of the amount we were able to come up with.
I’d sit at a rival cafe in Bushwick on my days off looking at the tags on the wall, thinking about them, spacing out until I realize one of the tags is my friends. I’d reach for my phone and find that my coworker dropped in the groupchat that something crazy happened today. That they started screaming at each other and she got on top of the cabinet, crouched down and hissing at him. Possession had never crossed my mind before this moment but she seemed to have been possessed by him. Like he drove her to that point of no return. They both knew how everyone looked at them. The group chat started going off with memes.
There’s something in the way a lover can turn us back to primates, animalistic. It reminds me of the times I wanted to crawl my way to a happy ending and hopefully get my brain on empty.
On a normal day a year later “I still haven’t found what I'm looking for” plays and I hear the door open. I look up and it’s her, alone with a profoundly new glow. She orders her old drink and takes a seat. The credits roll on this story as I look around for a new voyeuristic interest and the song fades out.