At the market the bike lane advocates have set up a booth to encourage urban cycling and they're giving away silver bells (I got one). The marketplace din is punctuated by the bright ding ding of bike bells. Strawberries are in season! And the egg lady is smiling and the fair trade coffee in my travel mug is finally the perfect temperature. Sipping the coffee I absorb the colours and sounds in small doses. Or try to. I never got the hang of microdosing. Fuck it! Suck it all in, breathe every scent, sweet and foul trip on the greens of kale, berries red, golden honey! Every human here is shining and beautiful and I love them all it almost hurts but I keep loving them even that one stealing a ripe strawberry and yes even that one scowling at the child with the bike bell.
The kids used to call Tim Hortons “Timportance”. I’ve always like that.
Being the unemployed recipient of a Tim’s card for Christmas and owing to the fact that I got up at 9:15, I got take-out coffee and a breakfast sandwich to punctuate the dog’s walk this morning. Can I just add a shout out to my small dog’s bladder? Way to adapt to changing definitions of “morning walk.”
There were five tables occupied at the Timmys. The staff were super quick throwing together the food so I didn’t get a good look at the table occupants. And it’s impolite to stare they say, yadayada.
Table one: a man and a woman in animated discussion. Papers strewn on tabletop being shuffled and referred to. Some with letterhead, some without. Some appeared to be reports. She’s smiling; I can’t see his face. Maybe numbers are up? Maybe they’re in the planning stages of their Big Idea? Maybe these are the papers they stole to finally bring down the Company, after a quick coffee break?
Table two: a woman sitting alone, reading. She has a hot beverage cup – maybe it’s a coffee, maybe it’s a Caramel Fudge Hot Chocolate – and is eating a Timbit. She gazes out the window at my parked dog, scans the room and then smiles kindly at me. Her book is called “Stop Eating Your Feelings.”
Table Three: a man by the fire. There are four comfortable looking chairs by the fire-feature and he is by himself in one of them. His phone is held aloft as he is immersed in a video chat. I don’t see earphones but I can’t hear the person on the phone, either. Maybe there are Bluetooth earphones under the man’s hat. I can’t hear him really either so maybe he’s using those earphones that turn your jaw movements into sound. Whatever silent thing is said makes him scowl and he pauses to stretch and to look around but not see anyone. It’s like he’s not really there at all.
Table Four: a man in dirty, worn-out clothes. He’s in layers, mismatched, rumpled, with greasy, hat-head hair. His coffee is done or forgotten. He’s playing a scratch ticket with enviable intensity.
Table Five: two older men. No phones on this table. Two disposable hot beverage cups and two sets of old hands. They hold eye contact while they talk. There doesn’t seem to be any tension between them, but also no expansive, heavily-gestured, shoot-the-shit energy. Two older men in companionable conversation. Past co-workers? Old friends? Ex-husband and widower of the same long gone woman?
And me. Me at the counter at 10AM getting breakfast to go. With my warm winter coat and cute pink hat to hide my bed-head. My adorable little dog waiting patiently outside. Smiling, looking at my phone, saying thank-you. Does the woman with the book wonder if I feel bad to be eating breakfast so late? Because I do, I feel guilty for sleeping in until 9:15. I have no routine and it’s overcast so I slept. Does she wonder if I eat out all the time? I don’t – I’m not working and eating out makes me feel guilty apart from this because I have a Tim’s card. I think I must look confident and put together on the outside most of the time but really I’m at a loss.
I didn’t go to Europe to find myself. I did go in part because I got married during University so I never did the run away to Europe thing. I did it like a middle-aged person – I went to lose myself. And I was famously successful. But now I need to pay bills and I can’t look for a career-type job because I want to start my Masters in the Autumn. And having been weightlessly nothing for an extended period of time, I don’t really want to stop. But “Sleeps in if it’s Cloudy” is not a title that pays the bills.
What self am I creating? Big ideas self? Lonely self-improvement self? Not really there at all self? Fervent scratch ticket self? Comfortable chat self?
For now I guess I’ll focus on becoming “makes enough to pay the bills” self and take it from there.
Riding the bus into Montreal, I gleefully read all the French billboards to myself and only once did I turn to read the back of one, as if I would find English there, like on a box of Shreddies. One billboard advertised Coors Edge – seemingly the cold beverage choice for straight-edge, middle-aged folk.
I am generally, casually in the market for booze-passing, non-alcoholic drinks. I often prefer not to drink but I still like engaging in the behaviours – cracking open a cold one; gesturing dramatically, glass in hand while telling a story; sipping from my glass thoughtfully, while actually scrambling for a witty reply. Beyond the desire to “act” like I’m drinking, I find it’s easier to drink beverages that pass in public as being alcoholic. It stresses people out when you sometimes drink, and sometimes don’t. So, my first day in Quebec, I found a Coors Edge and tried it.
It was pretty terrible.
And what was I expecting? I drink coffee stouts and milkshake IPAs and craft beer that ingeniously incorporates, I don’t know, Christmas trees and maple fudge. I don’t drink Coors so why did I think taking the alcohol out would make it better?
It tasted like a combination of stale soda water and unmet yearnings. It tasted like kissing someone who drank a crappy beer hours ago. It tasted like how watching someone play Scrabble and not being allowed to help feels.
And it really made me want a real beer. So I’m filing it under “Why does this exist?”
Of note in the same file is instant decaf. Why does this exist? Who needs their cuppa nothing RIGHT NOW? I can understand instant coffee in general, I guess – stores well, contains caffeine, easily prepared. You get your morning hit albeit with not even a modicum of pleasure.
And decaf real coffee, well-brewed, has the lovely flavour notes and late-night social grace without the all-night jitters. It serves a purpose.
But instant decaf? It’s just a sad, sad cup jonesing for meaning and worth.