Saturday, October 02, 2004

Love, Coffee and Why You Should Keep Hope Alive ...Dammit

In my twenties, I sat in coffee shops. One in particular stands out. It was cozy and homey and also served bagels and I always got a bit grumpy if my usual seat by the huge window was taken. It was on this cool intown Atlanta street with the requisite art gallery, trendy eateries and homeless person (named Ron, with one crazy dreadlock shooting from the left side of his head, a snazzy blazer and a penchant to sometimes walk around screaming jumbled words and other times be perfectly lucid and unfailingly polite, once telling me sadly that he was from Tennessee and didn’t like Atlanta. He could use a shower and is the reason I wear earplugs, but that’s another story). Nestled between a blues bar and a brunch place with a two hour wait on Sundays and a $10 fried egg, the street was lined with lots of old brick buildings, houses split up into apartments, an art gallery or two and lots of eateries with words on the menu like citrus-vinegar-reduction and Portobello goat cheese enchiladas. You know the type of street. Lots of attitude and overpriced shoes but the feeling that you’re almost in New York City.

Anyway, that’s where I lived and hung out in my single days. I loved it and hated it. It was, as the old quote goes, the best of times and the worst of times (Okay, maybe that’s not the exact quote but you get the idea). So I’d sit there, in my coffee shop, scribbling pages and pages of what I thought might turn into a book but was really 300 pages of a story going nowhere with minimal character development but some really great paragraphs that I still take out and look at once every two years or so.

But what I was really doing was waiting. For the next someone, something to walk through the door and change my world. Sometimes it happened, mostly it didn’t. But there was that hope, that everlasting hope and nothing, not the worst of dates, the craziest of men, the most boring of weeks or months or the mundanity of everyday life could stop that glimmer of hope.

I sometimes think I lived my life as if it were a big game or a script already written. I’d often think of background music for each situation and I definitely took myself way too seriously. But ones 20’s, I believe, is all about learning what the hell is going on. Who are you now that you’re out of college, away from home, making it or not making it alone in some strange city. The possibilities are endless even though the days are often much the same. You make your group of friends your families. You bitch and whine and laugh over sushi and beer, over pasta and wine. You spend your days working at a job that isn’t even close to what you imagined back in college. And you wait to fall in love.

I'd sit there and think to myself, "Maybe the next guy that walks through the door will be The Guy." Of course, I was outwardly cynical and jaded and blasé about the whole thing but really, I was just a big, goofy, cheesy, ridiculous romance novel waiting to happen. Perpetually waiting for love. Artsy love. Funky love. Love that understood me.

What I usually ended up with was some variation of freak-commitment-phobe-wannabe-something-or-other-didn’t-shower-enough-spent-too-much-time-with-hair-gel-random-insane-boring-sweet-obnoxious freak who my friends hated and I pretended to like until I couldn’t breathe (usually two dates) and had to avoid phone calls for the next week. But I’ll save the dating stories for another entry.

Here’s what I’m saying. It’s a sad truth but what it was all about was love and sex and all that madness. Everything revolved around it. It was the hope of making that connection that would change your life. I could bullshit you and talk about the camaraderie, the freedom, how I didn’t care about boyfriends, how work was important and on and on but come on, let’s be real – it was all about the search. Years of it. Until I couldn’t take it anymore. And even then, it was still about the search. And the truth of the matter is that now that that particular search is over, I can breathe. WHOOOOOSH. That’s me exhaling. And damn, it feels good.

Just a little message of hope from some random suburb outside an even more random city somewhere in the world.


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