i wrote this for an essay competition, and i didn’t win, but you can read it anyways because you probably have nothing better to do.
Slosh, slosh, slosh. My faded black rain boots trudged through the cloudy rainwater, making ripples and tiny whirlpools in each glossy puddle. I’ve always loved the rain. Each step I took sent a cascade of aquatic fireworks, illuminated and colored by the fierce city lights. Every tiny explosion of red, green and gold only added to the display below my feet. The city has always astounded me. It never sleeps, and I love that too. You can’t turn the city off, and it never slows down. Always bustling and always busy, the city powers through each day with more gusto than the last. But sometimes, much like a sleep-deprived student in an internet café, the city too can turn into a zombie when it doesn’t get its rest. In humans, when you haven’t slept in a week, things begin to blend together. Porridge-syndrome, I like to call it. Dates, facts and times begin to blur into a mushy gray sludge where nothing matters and each bite tastes the same as the last. Sometimes I think the city is a bit like that.
Last week, the snow fell down hard. It was like my whole world was a batch of cookies, and someone poured too many coconut shavings into the batter. When it snows, the whole city grinds to a halt, and that has always fascinated me. People have to take time to slow down. To take breaks. I took my break at a local coffee shop; the generic franchised variety where every beverage tastes alike and no one knows your name. I grabbed my chai and plunked down into a hard, uninviting wooden chair. They want you to stay, but not for too long.
I sipped my tea alone, staring out the window and at the tables nearby. I dug a chewed-up pen out from depths of my bag and tapped it along the coffee-ringed tabletop. I didn’t have any paper, so I pulled out an old receipt, and began scrawling on its blank backside.
This is an idea. The large, bold header declared. My pen wouldn’t work, so I scribbled along the margins.
Christmas music is playing.
“Christmas music is playing!” says the lady at the table next to mine. A man in a navy blue scarf across from her gives her a funny look.
“Yeah well, Starbucks looks like Christmas. The cups are Christmas. The chalkboards are Christmassy. Everything is Christmas.” I looked around me, and the man was right. Everything was outfitted in red, green, and gold, like the muddy fireworks in the rain. It made me think.
I’m done my coffee, but no seems to mind. That’s the beauty of a place like this. People don’t notice if you stay awhile. All the men, women, and non-fat-soy-americanos blend together until there is hardly enough to make distinction between differences. Porridge. David Bowie sings overhead.
I could stand up and sing, here in the middle of the café, and most wouldn’t notice. They’d sneak glances over their newspapers, give me a funny look, and then get back to their lives. That’s how the city works. It’s easy to get caught up in your daily caffeine hit.
When it snows, everyone cranks up the Christmas music. It wouldn’t matter if it was July, we’d still be decking the halls – parading in the snow, marching in and out of shops. My god, it’s only November.
The chatting couple has left already, and now a man with a camera and fur-lined mittens sits alone at their table.
I’ve always liked documenting things. It makes things seem important. Not boring, and not mundane: but exciting, and worthy of attention.
The shop is filling up, but I don’t feel like leaving. I am warm. The street races outside a foggy glass window, but inside I feel safe. Safe in the warmed-by-my-bum wooden chair, and safe amidst the echo of Christmas carols. People come and people go, but nothing really happens. I like that. Talk is small, photos are snappy, and tea is sipped, but nothing big. Its safe, and its unimportant.
I stop and stare at what I’ve just written. It’s not unimportant anymore. It can’t be. I just wrote about it. I documented it. I snatched the receipt off the table and crumpled it in my gloved hands.
Have you ever felt like you’re living in a bubble? As if you’re in an allergy commercial portraying someone whose sinuses are congested, but instead of just your nose, your whole world feels congested. I think the city is a lot like that. It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day-to-day. To be trapped in your own little world. No one else matters; you don’t even matter. All that matters is getting up and going to sleep a few hours later. The in-between is fuzzy and empty, and that’s a strange feeling. Don’t people ever wish they were doing more with their lives? Sometimes when I feel this way, I like to write myself lists; groups of ideas and things that aren’t important enough to make headlines, but things that confuse me anyways.
How do we know that literary geniuses were trying to make STATEMENTS in their pieces? Maybe Shakespeare wasn’t complex and enlightened – maybe he was just bored.
Throughout our teens, the silent message is that to be accepted, we must be “cool”. Not only this, we’re supposed to be hot, as well. Good looking, charming, and dare I say, sexy. At what point do “cool” and “hot” cancel each other out? Furthermore why, as an adolescent society, can’t we cope with simply being warm?
Once again, I whip out my trusty pen, and scrawl my ideas into a tissue. If I don’t make an effort to remember my thoughts, who will?
I’ve always hated to be alone. There’s something terrifying about thinking there’s no one to talk to, to share with, or to be with. My family calls me a chatterbox, but I just like people. Perhaps that explains my love affair with public transit. You’re not alone, but you’re not with people either, and it’s a very comforting feeling. The bus provides a time to think, but not to be afraid. I like that.
A different side of me comes out when I’m alone. It’s like being Spiderman, where at day you are Peter Parker, but at night you are someone entirely different – that’s what aloneness does for me. Days when I’m sitting on the bus, sipping tea, or laying on the grass- those are the days when I make the transition between myselves. By day, my inner Peter Parker is loud, outgoing and confident. She doesn’t care what anyone thinks, and speaks whatever is on her mind. Then there’s the introvert; the unstructured and confused side of me, where ideas run rampant and reason is strewn to the side. Radically different, these two fight for attention in the maze of my brain. Usually, the louder voice wins out in my mind, but on the off chance that I’m alone, my imagination takes over. Coffee isn’t a drink anymore; it’s a story. The woman sitting next to me isn’t just a soccer mom; she’s a supporting character in my own city-wide storybook. Even the streets I walk on shine with the memories of the past.
There are two sides of me, and two separate worlds that I live in. Wildly separate but still intertwined, my expeditions between the two are what make me who I am, and what differentiate people from their peers.
The city, on the other hand, has no split personality. The city is black and white. Alone, it has no feeling and no soul. It’s the people inside the city that have to make the difference, and who have to start exploring their own worlds. If we all start living a bit outside the box, we might break the box entirely. Leaving the shattered remnants on the floor, and walking away as whole people -maybe then things will be right.
There’s a park by my apartment, and it sticks out like a sore thumb in the middle of the city. Squashed in between nightclubs and dog-clothing shops, it seems out of place. And in the back of the park lies a swing set; old and unloved, hiding between bushes and an alleyway. But it’s a little piece of quiet amidst all the hustle and bustle, and sometimes I sit there to find solace. And sometimes, when the time is right and the rain is pouring down, I feel the two halves of me mush into one. And I feel at peace.