The collective clientele at Morning Times in downtown Raleigh is simply stunning. The atmosphere makes them visually arresting and mysterious and, subsequently, worlds cooler than me.
Let’s start with the specimen behind the counter. The first time I saw her, I only made it halfway through the door before I had to walk back outside. She was so pretty, I felt like I’d been punched in the sternum. I’m not generally attracted to girls (with a couple of very specific exceptions) but this girl transcended sexuality in a manner normally reserved for hand carved arabesque medicine cabinets or the perfect pair of shoes.
My dad asked me what my problem was and when I told him, he marched right on in there and told this chick she was the prettiest girl his daughter had ever seen. By the time he emerged, I was halfway down the block.
I’m sitting here now, almost a year later, in Morning Times, and I can see her gigantic, disheveled mop of brown curls bobbing about behind the register, framed by the chalkboard announcing poetry readings and art openings. Her asian-inspired face looks like in was carved in goddamn alabaster and she is wearing precisely no makeup. She is built like a tiny bird/ten-year-old boy/Natalie Portman and she has the sort of shoulders I covet for myself even more than a set of dimples. I want to know how it feels, what it means to exist in this world with looks like that. I don’t necessarily think she has it easier than me, or more difficult. I just want to know what it’s like to wake up, look in the mirror, and say, “Well, that’s what we’re working with, huh? No shit!” and traipse out the door.
But everyone here, they are all so exotic. Here is what I see:
1. A well-dressed man waving a banana around and dancing in expensive wooden clogs. He just called himself a faggot. His hair is impeccable.
2. A girl in skinny jeans and a ridiculous hat and zippered poncho and leather bag the color of baby shit. She has no upper lip, barely, and I want her to sit at my table and trade scarves with me for the time it takes for us to drink our coffee, because mine is a lovely smart paisley which used to belong to an old rich lady and hers is a bedraggled mustard yellow affair full of holes and I want it. It isn’t until she leaves the cafe that I notice her baby shit bag has a robot and an interrobang embroidered on it, so I mentally decide to trade her scarf back to her in exchange for the bag. She unhooks a beagle-dachshund hybrid from the frozen tree outside but the dog will not go. I can see that she is asking the dog to come with her in the firm, tolerant voice reserved for uncooperative young adults. The dog is unresponsive because dogs, like infants, will never realize when they are being treated with respect. You’re only talking to your dog/baby like that to show other humans that you don’t disrespect ANY forms of life, when in reality, you’re doubling the disrespect with your condescension.
3. A mid fifties dude in a puffy Columbia (“Trying Stuff Since 1932!”) vest and wire framed glasses, the sleeves of his gauzy white buttondown rolled up. He just picked up a few spoons, slammed them down, and knocked over a thing of sugar and yelled, “AND I WANT IT NOW!” The place fell silent and I stopped what I was doing and the owner grabbed his milk steaming pitcher and looked the guy in the face and then burst into laughter. They all laughed, the dude, the owner, my girlfriend with the no makeup.
4. A fat, aging businesswoman with fabulous chunky jewelry, a professional haircut, and a method for applying eyeshadow that could have only come from Glamour magazine or her fifteen year old gay son.
5. A salty, unwashed sea captain man with grey sweatpants, a misbuttoned camouflage jacket, long, stringy hair the color of dirty rice, and a beard for days. He’s hiking his sweatpants up and delicately adding Sugar In The Raw to his medium extra hot chai. He’s adding the sugar one granule at a time. He isn’t insane; I can tell somehow.
6. A poor man’s Christian Slater in a three piece suit just approached me while spit-smoothing his cowlick and gesturing with an iPhone4 and asked me if I was Marianne. I am not, and no one is ever looking for me.
I know it is entirely possible someone is sitting across the room being jealous of my new ShapeUps and the charming way I can’t hold a latte mug properly, but it is more probable that they are not.
But really, do you wonder what people think when they see you? What percentage of people think anything at all? If I know I am inherently lame, then is it that true for all the people I think are so cool? Do they think to themselves, “I am aware that last night I watched On Golden Pond and ate a whole thing of Spam straight out the can but by golly, SOMEONE thinks I’m cool, I’m sure of it! Maybe that red headed jerk in the ShapeUps!”
Who knows? Maybe I’ll start hanging out at Morning Times more often. I could use some pointers. I might even find out where to buy an interrobang appliqué. Maybe I’ll meet Marianne. Maybe I’ll someday even be able to order my coffee from the Porcelain MopTop without feeling my internal organs dissolve like they’re in love potion acid.
Maybe one day I’ll dupe someone into thinking I’m exotic and mysterious, like these people are doing to me right now.