A new probe on Mars
Feeling its tremors as pulse
Life left me eons ago
(Mars probe InSight) #haiku #space #love
A new probe on Mars
Feeling its tremors as pulse
Life left me eons ago
(Mars probe InSight) #haiku #space #love
You circled me then
Far away, far back in time
Disrupting life now
I feel suffocated,
Even the kindest and most generous thoughts showered on me in twitter leave be gasping for air.
Perhaps, it is the unadulterated and unconditional support that make me wonder if I deserve any of your kindness.
I feel limited in my ability to give back.
Other times the playful games of tagging feel Sisyphean.
Did I binge on twitter?
I came on twitter to get a peek of what my life could be if I lived out to my true self.
Far from it.
And then the flirting, mostly initiated by me but also from other super nice people. I felt giddy, elated and super wanted. And spend hours on end on DM talking sex and talking doing sex.
Not sure I can handle this nonstop.
Space and time warped and made me feel I was stuck in singularity every day.
Space and time, what I need right now.
I am going to try to use this medium to communicate.
Mostly one way.
This you may see as a short or semi-autobiographical piece on my coffee outing with Maria. This is told from the perspective of the imaginary (is she?) barista.
My shift began just an hour ago. I like the afternoon shift even though the tips are not that much. There is a clear difference between the grab and go morning rush for caffeine and the relaxed stay a while crowd of afternoons. Crowd is not the right word unless you can call the four people scattered in the different nooks of the coffee shop as a crowd.
I get long breaks between making the cappuccinos and scooping gelato. For that reason, I am usually the only one handling this shift. I take the order, ring them in, take my time to brew a good cup, foam the milk and clean the cups. I adjust my wristband I have been wearing to easy my carpal tunnel syndrome. The cups are washed and stacked, the customers are in their own world, I will come back to them in a minute.
There is nothing much to do. This is not Starbucks and it is not in a busy shopping center. Time flowed like frozen honey oozing out of squeeze bottle. The coffee shop is tucked away amongst a residential condominium complex. I am not one of those millennials with eyes glued to my phone. Pushing fifty I do not see a point telling strangers and facebook friends about my made up life. I stand with my elbows resting on the counter watching the four people and trying to imagine their life.
Seems pretty boring to me. A Caucasian man in his forties in buttoned-down shirt and slacks focused on his laptop. Two college-age boys with no facial hair, god I have more facial hair than them, huddled together staring at the same laptop. Is there a college closer? I cannot think of one. Perhaps I am so old they look like college kids. The other woman walked out just when I shifted my gaze towards her. Let me see how I can make their life interesting by making things up.
Then I see her walk in.
An Indian, there are so many of them in this area. She looks about thirtyish. She is dressed like one of those GAP commercial women, light blue shirt, navy blue jacket, not expensive wool but stylish slim cut synthetic, and sleek pants with a scarf wrapped around her neck. She tap-taps in short heels. Her shoulder length straight hair hung loose. Once it was likely cut in some trendy style but the uneven growth has erased all but a semblance of it and created a whole new look that nicely framed her face. She has her phone out and a clutch which should really be called a long wallet.
“Hi what can I get you?”
She answers without making eye contact. She wants to wait. She is waiting for someone. She eyed the two-seater sofa at the quiet corner but chooses the barstool near the entrance. That vantage position is great to get a very good view of the entrance all the way to the walkway from the parking lot. Does she not know how the other party looks like or does she need considerable lead time noticing them enter so she can do her last minute preparation?
Without realizing I started writing the backstory of this woman. Some people just have the stories swirling about them. Maybe it is their eyes that telegraphed a thousand stories swirling about them. She definitely had at least a story. I wonder how far off my story is from her real one. One story I can rule out is one of those coffee interviews. She is not overdressed and seems comfortable in the jacket which makes her the executive kind. So she is not here to interview with someone. Since she came early before the other party she is also not the interviewer because the classic power move is to be late.
That leaves out a friend or a casual acquaintance she wants to stay in touch with. Neither seems to fit her choice of seating. In either case, one would pick the most comfortable seating instead of scouting the entrance. That leaves the only possible option, she is meeting someone new over coffee. Someone she had communicated with but has not spent time with. She is keeping a watchful eye on the entrance so she can be ready with an opening line.
Even that scenario seems to lack legs. I have time. While she kept looking back and forth between her phone and the door I try to decipher her. She seems to have erected a wall between her and the rest of the coffee shop else she would have seen me intently staring at her. Is there a ring? I remember reading rings do not signal marital status of Indian women. There is a gold chain. She has very little makeup on except for some eyeliners. So she is most likely married.
A married woman meeting a man. That makes it all the more interesting. Now I am glued to the door. I want to see the guy she is meeting.
An older gentleman walks in, he is a regular here so I quickly dismiss him as the guy. I know his order and the routine. I give all my attention to him not worried about missing the secret date guy, after all, they will come to me to order. Besides, I have a crush on this guy, his thick wedding band be damned. Someone my age cohort, so refined and a reader. I try my usual banter, laugh aloud for his answers. Well, all I get is him picking 25% tip button on the cash register iPad. Fine, I will get you another day.
As he picks his usual spot I make all the standard noise of making his cappuccino. We make it a point in this coffee shop to slow things down. I take my time running hot water through the espresso, cleaning the foam sprout and finally brewing a cup. I take pride in my froth design, the nice crema on top holds the design longer. I usually call names to get them to come to me, for Bob I take it to him. I linger asking him about the book in his hand, run my hands through my straight dark and silvery hair. What a dense fellow.
Back to the counter. Back to observing. God, time really flows slowly here. How long has this woman been waiting? She sure should dump this guy if he is late for coffee or he better be extraordinary in bed. Bob settled into his book, no point prodding him again. Hope this girl’s paramour arrives soon, I can only clean and stack up so many cups here.
After what felt like a long time I see the woman stir and smooth her hair. Definitely a coffee date. I reflexively turn to the door. Well, this is even more interesting. I see a tall Hispanic woman wearing a red blouse, jeans and knee boots walking up the ramp. Her large sunglasses covered a good part of her face, she pushed it up over her head. She was not carrying any purse, or she left that in her car in her hurry. She was tall and made long strides that showed an apology for tardiness. She was not deliberately late, I can tell, she is likely the kind that loses track of time everywhere. Her curly brown hair was loose and brushed back.
I shift my eyes to the one who is waiting. I did not see this coming. You here to see a woman, sweetie? I think about reviving my just a friend or casual acquaintance scenarios. The expectation and excitement I see in the two do not add up to show something less than amorous between the two. The Indian girl stands, steps outside the stool, leaving enough room in front of her, clearly getting in position for the hug. She must have been practicing.
I am not going to stop snooping now.
I see the two go for the hug. The new girl very lively, outstretched arms, apologizing loudly in an accented voice, a voice that is impossible to get mad at. She could be delivering the end of the world message in that voice and you still will feel everything is going to be okay. The Indian girl extends her arms like the T-Rex, correction just one arm with the other frozen by her side. What kind of hug is that?
After the pleasantries exchanged the two walk over to me.
“What can I get you lovely ladies?”
I see the two blush and steal a glance at the other.
“I will take a cappuccino”, the first brown girl.
“I will have what she is having”, the second.
I try to suppress my quip but it escapes me, “Like Meg Ryan in When Harry Met Sally”.
The second girl gets the arcane reference and found it funny. She laughs aloud and adds, “I hope no one is yelling Yes, Yes, Yes”.
She is definitely putting on the work to woo the other. She also does not make an attempt to pay, she lets the first girl treat her. As I turn the Square card reader forward I take a good look at them. I can see what each found in the other attractive. Both so alike and yet so different. One refined looking in her attire and reserved behavior and the other the flowing energy ball that might start dancing any minute.
15% tip. Well okay, I will take it.
“Can I get a name?”, I could let them settle in and take the cups to them but I want to run an experiment to see which one or both came to pick up their cappuccino.
“I will give her name, it is easier to say than mine. Maria”, says the first girl, trying to roll the R. I assume she is testing and tasting the name in her mouth.
“It is not difficult at all. Your name is beautiful”, laughs Maria, while her hand reaching out to touch. She must be the type that cleans up all women in a bar. Smooth. She uses her whole body to let her long hair in front, something she could have achieved with the simple use of hands but this move was such a joy to watch. I see the two yellow butterflies floating in her crown, trying to keep down the wave.
Then the big act of picking a seat. Are they going to pick the high table with seats facing each other or the two-seater at the back? The two-seater it is with the walnut coffee table in front. Maria on left and the nameless first girl on right with each slightly turned towards the other. I would not have picked it if I were meeting Bob or another guy for a tryst. These two must have their reasons.
I take my time making their drinks. My view behind the DeLonghi machine is not so good. I do not see how they are settling into it. The first few minutes are important. Who breaks the ice? What topics they browse before settling on one for a deep dive.
Two beautiful espresso cups are ready, the crema shining like gold. Before I add the froth I call out for Maria,
“Maria, two cappuccinos”.
The experiment is unleashed. I wait to see the dance of how they agree on who will pick up. Maria stands up before her partner, does elaborate hand gestures, and presses her partner on her shoulders to make her sit.
Maria walks over. Seeing her in her knee boots I imagine her as one of those South Western girls in line dancing rooms. I wait for Maria to reach me and then show off my foam design skills by creating a fern leaf on the cup. Her eyes widen, like a child.
“Oh, my gawd, so00 beautiful. How you do that?”, that accented voice again. So sweet.
Before I add foam to the other cup she stops me and calls out to her friend by name. Wow, that is a hard name to say for me, yet Maria says it with such ease. I could only sense it must be spelled with an S and had hard consonants in it. I cannot pronounce it just after hearing it once, I will stick to calling her in my mind as Ms. S.
“You need to come see this. You will love this. Come over.”
Such a childish joy in her voice. The excitement of discovery, an unbounded appreciation for simple beauty, and the big heart to share it with Ms. S. Maria claps her hand without making sound and waits with joyous impatience for Ms. S to join her.
Well, there goes my experiment. Now Ms. S comes over, with no hesitation. She is not as excited as Maria but definitely smiling big as she walks over. What is the point Maria of you offering to pick up if you make her come over as well? Perhaps she expected her to come with her anyway?
Maria helps S by pulling her right hand as if she would otherwise lose her way in the last two feet to the counter.
Time for another experiment.
I now do a heart design with foamed milk.
S breaks a tiny smile but holds it back. Maria tries to dig it out and makes up for both in her enthusiasm.
So who will get the heart cup?
Maria offers the heart design to S.
“Do you think the two will taste different?”, Maria.
“They sure do”, I add another reagent to the experiment.
“Then we will have to taste and see.”
“What if the flavor changes after our first sip?”, says S. That is some nuanced statement posed as a question. How is this complex girl going to make it with super speed open book Maria? Is she going to peel off her layers and scrape of the cruds to let Maria reach her? Does Maria realize the girl buried beneath layers? Maria’s personality is definitely bunker busting kind, the question is if she has the patience.
The two walk back to their seat.
I suddenly feel I was invading their private space. Partly my foreboding that this not going anywhere. I should not care but it is easier for me to get off the train now before I get attached to them. I decide to look away from them as they continue to talk. My occasional glances show animated Maria and smiling but subdued S. I do not expect Maria to get through many layers today.
Over an hour I watch a few changes in S. She reaches out and touches Maria’s hands more frequently. The two are now almost turned towards each other, so close their knees touching. Maybe this is not as bad.
Maria exclaims loudly at the time, stating how late she is. Seems she is usually late to every appointment. Such a free spirit that is constrained by the clock.
The two get up and leave without noticing me. I look for their goodbyes. They hug. This time S found her other arm and realized they can extend fully. Maria might have gotten through at least one layer. She gives a full hug. Maria goes for a kiss on each cheek.
The two walk out the door but linger for few more seconds. One more hug. They are gone.
Maria floating away like she owned the world.
S walking fast, is that a little bounce in her step?
I return to planning my next move with Bob.
This happened yesterday when I least expected.
On an impulse, I initiated it after the lull in dealings with a certain cute Maria.
Before I dug into leftover pasta I had packed for lunch I decided to give it a try. I wanted i so desperately see her.
Hence the text and the ensuing meet up or coffee date .
It is unavoidable to look at how clumsy my opening line was. No greetings just straight up asking if she had dome with her lunch. It did signal my intention clearly though.
But then began the longest wait period. Eight minutes before the response arrived. The simple Hello.
And I again sent two responses and was already typing the third when her cute reply arrives. Yes those simple words look cute to me.
Come on look at the response, it was a step beyond yes with a suggestion for a day.
So we are meeting Thursday due to our schedules for afternoon coffee
If you are looking for me I will be floating and freaking out.
It is hard not to miss your youth. I should not include all of you in this sweeping claim. I should restate this from my perspective. I cannot help but miss my youth, not all of it but parts of it. I remember and relive some parts to the t. And some parts I imagine reliving in a different way than they really unfolded.
I was reminded of my wedding day when I was talking to someone. As I relayed the parts about three day ceremonies and scripture chanting outside my nuptials room, I thought how odd this would have sounded to them. Who can tolerate priests outside their nuptials bedroom praying for you to conceive a son for your husband’s family.
Well fuck them, I did not conceive that night and I would only give them girls.
When you meet someone with vastly different cultural background, superimposed on the Zeitgeist, parts of their narrative may sound incredulous. If you have not walked in their shoes, their reality would sure read whimsical. I thought I will go a step further here to share parts of my wedding night I did not discuss before.
Well the wedding day was the second day of the three day event and that evening was the nuptials. The day was long, smoke filled and back breaking. Long because I had to wake up at three AM for elaborate braiding and costume. Smoke filled because of the scared fire in front of which I sat for hours. Back breaking because of bowing, prostrating, and kneeling in respect to anyone a tad older than me.
After all these, one would ask how can anyone have sex let alone for the first time. Well it had to happen because the stars were aligned and the auspicious time for conception set at 11PM. I was terrified but was also looking forward to it. That will be the first time I will ever be with a man so I was terrified. I had a real detailed explanation of how to make the most of it from my Valli. That made me look forward to it.
For a girl who loves her sleep and can’t stay alive past 10, 11PM start time and god know the end Time was so hard to think of. But the excitement and emotions created an energy boost that kept me awake. Of course the cold shower my aunties gave me after dinner was a big factor.
Cold shower by dumping pails of blessed water to cool the fire in me and to remind me that sex is not about pleasure but procreation. I sat fully clothed in my cotton saree when they dumped at least a dozen pails of cold water. And the cotton retained all the water and stuck to my body tight.
After removing any ounce of pleasure seeking ill omen from my body they prepped me for the night.
I dried up and wore a stylish Indian blouse and a light silk saree. Someone dried my hair and did it in a loose braid. Another stuffed a ton of jasmine flowers in my hair. No make up or lipstick. Instead an aunty stuffed a folded beetle leaf in my mouth and made me chew. The redness from it coated my tongue and lips but the spice in it rendered my tongue dead. I was asked to stick out my tongue to show how red it was, a test of how fertile I was for receiving the seed. They all rejoiced to see the crimson red.
Then the logistics,
“there is warm milk on the nightstand. Make sure you make him drink most of it before it all begins, because it climaxes him faster else you’d be awake all night”
“There is a spare old saree and inner ware under the mattress, change to that because you know blood”
“There is a folded hand towel for biting into so you do not make any noise”
“The priest will chant outside your room at 10:45”. We will turn off light for your room at that time.”
Then the instructions on how to receive the seed so I could become properly pregnant at this chosen time,
“At no point, especially when you receive his seed, do not be naked. You must have clothing on.”
“Make him wait till the light goes off and bring him home right after light goes off.”
“Keep your hands as if you are praying and chant this mantra. Don’t let bad thoughts enter your mind.”
Then the instructions on cleanup,
“Do not fall asleep with him. When he sleeps, slip out of the room and knock. One of aunty will be waiting for you.”
“The next day purify yourself with oil and shower in super scalding water.”
Nothing registered in my mind. It was like I was a prize fighter walking through the high energy crowd to the arena and all my trainers were telling me what to do with left and right hooks. The whole world knew I would be deflowered that night. Perhaps, the priest chanting was the boxing announcer guiding the sperm to my ovum.
You still with me?
Surely you did not think anything happened after all this?
Sorry to give the news. Nothing happened. When I went in he was already in bed and looked dead tired. We were awkward. I first prostrated to him as instructed by my aunts. Got him to drink the milk.
He very awkwardly asked if I was sleepy.
I had a wonderful evening outing on Saturday, spending time at Christmas in the Park, seeing my girls enjoy the rides, people watching, and a very enjoyable conversation with Maria. To remind you, this was the outing I was fretting about in my previous post.
I sat down to write this follow-on post after my outing with Maria and our respective girls. I wrote and rewrote the opening several times and could not quite say things the way I wanted. I stepped back and wrote down a few points about me.
Expectations seem to define me. Agenda takes over how I spend my time. Fears color how I perceive events. Deadlines dictate my moves. When I step outside of myself and observe myself, as I would an exhibit in a museum, after the events have long passed, things become clearer to me. But things are never clear in the moment.
When Maria offered to spend her evening with her daughter as a shared time with myself and my daughters I had failed to see that as a gift. I had imposed my own views and expectations on the offer and that subsequently led to my fretting.
Is it possible she may have a tiny bit of crush on me? Is it likely I may have found that flattering and terrifying? Is there a chance she had invited me to join her as a soft date?
The correct answer, which took me a long time to arrive at, is, it does not matter. As I am wont to say, be that as it may, I should accept the gift with gratitude and go in with open heart.
And I did.
We had planned to take off directly from the swim academy, after swim lessons. Which meant a bit of preparation on my side to get my daughters dechlorinated, dried, and dressed for fun and warmth. I wore my plainest jeans, tops and puffer vest. Didn’t have to do much to style my hair that is already growing out the bob and just a touch of lipstick.
Maria introduced me to her daughter, a lovely teenager with a level of caring and balance I wish I had had when I was a teen. I had to rein in my mind doing the math on when Maria would have had her. Maria was in her work attire of swim academy tee and jeans but changed to a lovely sea-green mock turtleneck before we left. Her long hair was neatly flat ironed and hung like a lovely curtain over her shoulders. The butterfly clip was perched in its usual place.
While I had talked to her on class business so many times and had exchanged several texts since last week, this was the first time I was talking to her after all my fretting. That didn’t matter, we started talking the moment we got our girls ready. Since I’m the minivan mom, I drove the squad to the event.
Seeing the rides and carnival stands brought out the child in me. We let the kids enjoy the carnival with Maria’s daughter taking care of my two munchkins. At this point, with just two of us I admit I felt my nerves fraying but didn’t fail me. I quickly suggested we get some cappuccino at the cafe.
Maria, who was telling jokes and singing with girls in the car, suddenly became quiet as well. Luckily for me, my realization that morning helped me carry the conversation. I chose to show some of my vulnerability and shared with her how I never got to do many things in my teen years. Then I showed genuine interest in knowing about her.
As we sipped through the delicious cappuccino, our conversation flowed. We covered a lot of ground. While I am sharing with you my background I am not going to write here what she shared with me. The only thing that I can share without breaking trust is that there was a similar yearning for care that is a little more and little different from just friendship.
I felt no pressure to perform, put on a show, or send subtle signals. I was a girl, I was a woman, I was a wife, I was a mom, and most importantly I was an active listener. I learned about her hope, fears, and travails as much as I shared mine.
Did I find it sweet when she rolled her Rs or when she pronounced city names in Spanish? Did I find it cute when she absentmindedly brushed back her wayward hair strands that kept sliding over her face? Did I find it warm my heart when she laughed big at my stories?
Perhaps. But all those do not matter.
As I polished off the pastries we were ready to go find out lovelies and return home. Just as we walked out, without overthinking and without an agenda I told her how I liked the cute butterfly clip. She smiled so warmly and like she always did at the swim academy, touched my elbow and said gracias.
That about sums it up.