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An American flag planted high on a rugged cliff in the Rocky Mountains.
Long live freedom.
Sitting in the corner, at a tiny little table, “doing work.” But really just people watching. There’s the group by the door, laughing. They’re playing a prank on their friend, and she has no clue. Ah, the humor of college life. There’s a line out the door, students in a hurry to get their caffeine fix before their next commitments. And there’s some cliché country song playing over the speakers, mixing with the din of voices and growl of the espresso machine to create a constant clutter of noise. The midday light outside is clear and bright, but it’s rather dim in here, with the drab walls and dark floor. But that fits perfectly with the deep, sultry fragrance of fresh coffee.
The whole atmosphere is perfect for creativity, exactly the sort of place where one would feel inspired to accomplish tasks, but exactly the sort of place where one would get too distracted and contemplative to actually get anything done.
The kind of tired that isn’t stressful or discouraging. The kind of tired that comes from a long, fulfilling day, instead of countless late nights and too much work.
It’s a beautifully simple tired. It’s being worn out, yet not exhausted.
The mind and body begin to melt. Sleepy eyelids beckon unconsciousness with every blink. There’s no resistance here. Just an amicable surrender.
The barista plunks my cup on the counter.
“Iced coffee with room!”
I grab the deep brown drink and turn. There’s a counter in the back, and I’m headed toward it. On that counter sits an unassuming canister of half-and-half. Or some days it’s milk. Either way, it’s on the agenda.
If I’m in a hurry, I don’t notice. But when I’m paying attention…
Something magical happens when I pour. At first, it’s localized. Like a well-trained diver, the cream slides effortlessly into the coffee, hardly making a splash. There’s a split-second delay, a half-pause, one single breath of waiting.
Time reboots with a jolt, as a corkscrew of white billows through the dark liquid from underneath. For a fleeting moment, I revel in that swirl. A mini tornado of milk in my cup. A riptide of cream stretching out to drag the coffee into itself. Intense contrast, light and dark. Chiaroscuro, they might say in art.
A quick mix with my straw and it’s all gone.
Tall stalks of corn stand at attention along the side of the road. Like rows of stiff soldiers, together they guard the livelihood of their farm family. When the winds of opposition blow through, they bend and sway with the pressure. Some will perish in the battle and some will fulfill their tour of duty. And each year, a new crop of warriors will enlist, taking up the banner, enduring, struggling for the American Dream.
The clouds patterned the sky like Dots candy, little dollops in perfectly straight rows. Fluffy clumps of lint collecting on the swatches of earth below.
We work in the same pattern, the sun and I.
I arrive early, iced coffee in hand. The sun, itself just barely awake, nudges me toward the doors of my office building, its gentle rays as eager as I am to get the day started.
From 7:30am-4pm, I sit in the lobby of our office building, at a desk with a dark granite top. Water cascades down the copper fountain in the corner, each droplet racing his brothers to the bottom.
The floor-to-ceiling windows welcome the summer sun to sprawl across the stone floor and stay a while. And we wait, the sun and I, gradually fading together, until our time has come to leave.
But we’ll be back tomorrow, the sun and I, bright and early.
My shift as a server last night was terrible.
My tables were full all night. The guests were impatient, demanding, or downright rude; take your pick. Three hours of non-stop busyness. Three hours of rushing, scurrying, and bustling. And a healthy dose of tripping over myself.
To the white-haired lady dressed in dreamsicle orange…
who wasn’t too busy barking requests to say hello
who smiled back when I flashed her a grin
who stopped to comment on my “beautiful straight teeth”
who wanted me to look into dental modeling
who refused to order until I promised to do so