Use the garage today because it’s pouring rain. You know it’s a bad idea because they charge a weekend surplus but for some reason you go along with it.
At a bar upstairs the notebook comes out and you do a good amount of work in the sapce of two beers. The bill is $6, plus tip. It’s been about two hours. This is fine.
Leaving the garage a twentysomething in the cashiers’ booth tells you the price of your stay was $7. Frustrating. Guilt-inducing. Embarrassing, too, that you can’t go out to do some work over just two cheap beers without then incurring some peripheral expense that throws your supper into question and sets you on this nervous-angry thought track (made worse by the booze) about when you’ll next be paid and how embarrassingly meager a life you’ll have to lead until then.
The machine isn’t working.
Dude in the booth asks if you’d mind backing up 20 feet, changing lanes, and going and paying in another automated register.
Bafflingly, you say, “Yeah, I mind.”
Of course you don’t mind.
This dude with the glasses sighs and then apologizes but says that this is the only way for you to get out.
Of course he’s not sorry.
Two twentysomethings at an agitated standstill not wanting (not being able) to say what’s really got you both here, in this mood.
- He’s just doing his job, and embarrassed to be working here.
- You’re just broke, and embarrassed to be so.
Hungry at the cafe but you check your account and decide it’s probably safer just to stay hungry for a while, ’til Happy Hour, at which point you head south to the usual bar for a halfprice beer and a halfprice appetizer, big enough to work as a meal, and to read for a bit before heading home.
At the cafe when you were hungry the barista got up from behind the counter and came over and sat beside you at the communal table, bored in this lull between busy patches, and without mentioning her son she says she might have to look for a new job soon. This sudden candor. Talks with spotty eye-contact, unprompted, about how she’s only just barely meeting her expenses. She refers your eye to the counter where, a few minutes ago, that empty and red-stained Tupperware was full of pasta and she was doing damage to it.
“Made that fucking pasta two nights ago, big pot like a witch, and I’m still eating it now and I’ll probably have it again tomorrow. Like…” Her breath catches and she shakes her head, closes her eyes, sighs. Opens up and looks immediately more flippant and cool. Says, “I feel like it’s fine in the end cuz I’m, what?, I’m twenty-eight. I’m just starting out, like, in life. So I know it’s fine, that this is like my Struggle Period and that eventually shit’ll be good cuz I’ve got like the work ethic, the brains, whatever whatever. It’s just…” mouth agape, pawing for a word, she finally just laughs, “it fucking sucks right now.”
And a cuple hours later you’re here at the bar, finally getting your Bliss, and you’re thinking of her life and of yours. Her attitude and yours.
You’re comparing, which people say not to do.
Only other guy at the bar is thirtysomething and says to the bartender, tall woman all frecklespeckled with red hair, he’s surprised by how relaxed it is in here. He says this is his first visit.
“Place looks so fancy,” he says, “everytime I get near it I feel like I gotta book.”
She shrugs, wiping the counter in fast circles, “We’re not so fancy.”
He asks where she’s from.
“Virginia. What about you, you’re Cuban?”
“Yeah but I was born in New York.”
“I lived there for a while.”
He grins and does some clicking thing with his mouth. “It’s the best, I miss it.”
Bar tender puts a tender hand on the small of her back while straightening, and tossing the rag into the liquor well, exhaling. Strain of work written in her posture, her breathing, sweaty face. “Ahdunno.” She shakes her head slowly and looks either tired or defeated. “Wish it wasn’t so expensive.”