Existentialism In The Twenty-First Century

        It’s a Friday night as I sit at the bar of the café. I watch a few scattered people mill about ordering drinks and socializing as I sip a harsh cup of coffee. It’s an unremarkably typical evening for this particular scene composed mostly of so called artists. Everyone is inspired despite the fact that everyone looks alike. Most likely they think alike as well. I don’t mind it much though as their company is comforting, even if that company is only indirectly associated with me. Their modest pretentiousness is well intentioned. It’s ironic, an expression of a new outlook on life that embraces subtlety in form and movement and views the world through a kaleidoscope. I relate to it, or at least I would like to.
        But mostly I just find myself bored. I go out at times. In fact I do that quite a bit, mostly losing myself in a haze of whiskey and beer, layering one on the other until my thoughts no longer exist. It’s alright at the time but when I look back at it I am instantly aware of my mundane life. It is not so much a drowning of sorrows as it is a numbing of disillusionment. I live, and have always lived, a sheltered life. A life where everything is ordained and normative. On a night like tonight, while I sit here with my coffee, I watch the people around me and consider their lives. They are images, “inspired” images whatever that might be, and nothing else. While the rest of the world wallows in poverty and revels in violence, our only concern is the way we are perceived.
        It is this culture that I am a part of, of drinking craft beers and coffee from bags that say “Fair Trade” on it. That is our manner of contributing to the wellbeing of the world while still protecting our unique identity. It is an entirely sanitized version of the world and it’s driving me insane. I need something more, something worth struggling for. I want something worth taking up arms and creating a new order of social being. But one thing is for sure, that will not be occurring here at this café.
        It’s difficult to really see what is going on in the dimly lit café. What light there is is mostly concentrated on the bar area, maybe so the bartenders can work more efficiently or maybe so the customers can watch themselves waste away. Tonight however I won’t be drinking alcohol. It’s one of those nights, I suppose. My friends are all out of town or busy so I figured I would keep things mellow. There is no shame in enjoying a night out on your own, although it can become fairly boring. At least I can people watch.
        Looking down at my coffee I realize I am about to finish it, so I give the barista that expectant “I need more!” look and hope for the best. She is a pretty girl, not beautiful but definitely take-home material. When I finally do get her attention she moseys over to me and gives me a disinterested look.
        “Want another one?”
        “Yes, please. Any way you could make this one a little less strong?”
        “Sure, order something else,” she says in an annoyed tone. I give her a blank look, but quite frankly I’m not offended. More than likely she wouldn’t be able to modify my current drink as it’s done through one of those fancy espresso machines. Or maybe it was just a really stupid question.
        “Ok, well then I’ll have an Americano.”
        “Why don’t you just get a beer or something?” She shoots back. I think she’s failing to remember that I’m not drunk and am likely to be intolerant of this kind of treatment. But again I just shrug it off.
        “No I just want another coffee, thanks though.” I respond with a sincerity more appropriate to being offered a free glass of high-end scotch. She twirls around without another word and disappears into the mess of bottles and glasses on the back wall.
        I glance around the room and survey the crowd. The café has filled up now with people making small groups throughout the floor space. Most are drinking beers and cocktails but a few are sipping on coffees as well. The coffee drinkers are also alone. I wonder what they’re doing on their own here. Maybe they don’t have friends. A couple of them have their faces buried behind laptop screens doing god knows what. I watch them intently as they are the only ones I really find interesting. Since my drink has not arrived yet I set about imagining what they are doing. The guy with his back to the wall is watching porn. Yes, look at that serene face of satisfaction. He must be watching something glorious and ridiculous, like a monster gang bang.
        The other guy is writing. I squint to try and make out what he is putting to “paper” but it’s of no use. I’m forced to revert to imagining once again and I try and think of the most outlandish story possible. Sadly the only thing I can imagine is a story about his love affair with his car. I hope this lack of inspiration is not me but him, as he is dressed in brand name clothing and exudes an air of bachelor wealth. Or he might in fact have a family that he has conveniently neglected tonight, one that he supports with a stack of credit cards that he somehow manages to shove in his wallet. I try and sneak a glance to see if I can see a welt where his wallet might be but all I see is a flat ass.
        I turn around to find the barista eyeing me suspiciously with my coffee in her hand apparently having noticed the direction of my gaze.
        “Are you done?” She says dryly.
        “Uh, yeah. Thanks.” I take the coffee from her. I really don’t see the point in explaining myself, it would just make me look more suspicious.
        It is at this point that two girls collapse against the bar, giggling to each other. I sneak a glance at them and notice their dress; they look like young professionals enjoying the fruits of their labors. It’s nice making your own money after having relied so heavily on your parents. You feel in control and independent, a free force carving a new path in an already worn world. Of course to those who have come into means of self sufficiency the world is anything but worn. Everything to them is new and exciting. I view the world as a façade, a glimmering layer of hope and enchantment that will eventually wear off once youthfulness is overtaken by the pains of marital discord and the economic syphoning effect of children. But I won’t ruin it for them. Or anyone else for that matter.
        They are promptly served by the waitress who offers them a gentle smile. The two girls discuss their options and decide to order vodka tonics. “How predictable,” I think to myself. I wish they would have ordered a glass of cheap whiskey, neat, and swigged it like forlorn truckers. But no, it has to be vodka. How uninspired. By this point I am blatantly staring at them, and the one closest to me finally realizes it.
        “Hi.” She says with a smile. I’m surprised and find myself at a loss of words for an instant.
        “I’m Giorgina”. She offers me her hand, still smiling and with eager eyes.
        I take her hand and give it a shake. “William.”
        “Nice to meet you. This is my friend Rebecca.” As she motions to her friend I look over at her and see that Rebecca is eyeing me wearily. She has a look of caution, the look of someone who has been around this scene long enough to know that most guys can be total jackasses. Giorgina on the other hand has a sweet foreign accent and seems entirely oblivious to the American male way. Especially towards overtly friendly females. Or, of course, she is entirely conscious of our mammalian habits and would be set on reciprocating in such a circumstance.
        “So, why are you only drinking coffee?” Giorgina asks me.
        “Oh, I… well that’s all I really felt like drinking to be honest. Long day, you know?”
        “Yes it has been. Do you work somewhere?”
        Of course I work somewhere, I think to myself. I work from my office, which happens to be wherever the hell I want it to be. Then I submit my work and never hear back about it. So essentially I work for free wherever I feel like working, never getting any kind of compensation.
        It hits me then that this is a perfect time to lift my boredom and freelance a narrative about my life. These two girls are attractive and all, but they’re likely to lose interest in me within fifteen minutes and move on to some other guy. So I’ll have my fun while I still have their attention. The question is, what am I going to be?
        “I do.” I responded simply to her question. I needed to buy myself some time.
        “Where do you work?”
        “I work freelance, so it varies.”
        “Cool, are you an artist or something.”
        I chuckle to myself, although visibly. I wonder if I am an artist. Not tonight though.
        “No I’m a handyman, my services are in high demand.” I gave them a slight smile. “That’s my slogan.”
        Giorgina giggles at me. Rebecca is not amused. “Very nice!” Giorgina finally says, “Do you get paid well?”
        “Depends on the job. I charge based on how many tasks are requested.” I smile at them each individually. “It also depends on the kind of job asked for. I can work surfaces and do pipework, among other things. Typical fare I suppose.”
        I’m watching them carefully now, seeing if my hints are too subtle. Giorgina seems totally oblivious but Rebecca looks especially suspicious now. I suppose I don’t look like your typical handyman considering how I’m dressed and where I am at.
        “So, did you have to go to school to become a handyman?” Giorgina continues. She is so sweetly naive.
        “No not really. You learn on the job and like anything else the more you do it the more experienced you get. I’ve been around for a while, so I’m pretty good.”
        Giorgina just isn’t getting it and Rebecca is obviously not intent on pushing the subject until it is more evident so I choose to be a bit more aggressive.
        “Y’all wouldn’t by chance need any work done at your place? I’m always open to doing jobs at any time of the day. A man’s got to make a living.”
        That’s the final straw for Rebecca. She shoots up from her stool and yanks Giorgina away violently.
        “Alright that’s it let’s get out of here.”
        “Wait, why?” Giorgina protests. She turns to me and continues, “I don’t have any work for you but you should come hang out with us!”
        “No!” Yells Rebecca as she drags Giorgina by the arm. “I’ll explain later, let’s just leave!”
        Giorgina looks at me wild-eyed and utterly confused. I wonder to myself what she will think once Rebecca explains everything to her. To be honest I suspect she would have accepted my offer, she gave me the vibe of the adventurous type. As for myself, I set about enjoying my coffee again. The barista is glaring at me with a mixture of disgust and confusion. I can only think to wink at her.

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For the Intermittent Writer


Short books about albums. Published by Bloomsbury.

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