When we finally closed that night, once the bicycle horn silenced and the Interesting and Annoying girls left me alone to scrub down the tables, mop cheap beer from under the counter stools, it was Joanna’s turn to vent her spleen.
“Your attitude could use a pick up,” she said, counting cash from the register. Most of the spot lights had been turned off, leaving us to close up in this weird, downcast light.
“It sure could,” I said cheerfully which sounded wise ass, even to my own ears.
“I know you’re not happy working here,” she said. Her head was bent, half glasses on her nose. She had the red framed kind, jazzy bifocals that made her look like a hip mama to all of her college student customers.
“It’s not that, it’s just the entertainers you allow in here. That last poet put me in the seventh circle of hell.” Trying to keep it light as always. What I didn’t expect was Joanna to turn it into an argument.
“Why don’t you do something!” she snapped as if I had personally attacked her. She pulled off her red bifocals. “Why don’t you motivate! You make disparaging comments about people who walk into this place all the time, but what have you done with your own life? Stop hiding behind this job, if that’s what it takes and use your talents.” She then hurled her favorite motto at me: “Just don’t be a loser because you didn’t TRY!”
This, on a day that a waitress didn’t show up. I gave her a break and kept my mouth shut as I continued sweeping the floor. Thanks, Joanna, for the brilliant insight. You’re absolutely right. Everything blocking me, everything pissing me, simply comes down to my negative attitude.
In my dreams that night, Andy bruised the drums under a yellow-green light, not a good light for his pale face, which worried me. Why was he so pale? In life, he had a ruddy face. On a buckling stage, fifty of his friends cheered for him, passing a blunt, enjoying the solace of being there. In my sleep, his sweat and his child’s smile caused my chest to rack. Drumsticks up. Down. The sound delayed in my ears.
I woke up at four in the morning, but I never went back to sleep. I simply laid there and got up a half hour earlier. Drove to open the cafe. Flicked the lights, ground the coffees. Wiped beer rings from the tables and checked the supplies. Straightened the pencil and paper cubbies. Spritzed the front glass doors. Did what I was supposed to do more or less.
I didn’t want to face Joanna that morning and thought, I’ll just do what always works, pretend nothing happened. But it was a petulant thought, as a part of me realized how she was right. Here I was, a complete poser within my own bitterness, watching everyone else come into the Someday Café at least attempting to go somewhere with their talents. She was the only one who needled me enough to get me to come out of my fog.
I thought maybe today, I’d be good, maybe leave the customers alone with their coffees and notebooks so they could create something interesting. I thought all this with not one person in the cafe but with the sun grasping the edges of the city, throwing peach across the cafe’s picnic tables and the coffee perking, thinking with a not-awake mind, next December, how old will I be?