A whole new definition of “bug-eyed”

I was on the last leg of my walk with Boomer, my roommate’s dog, when a bug flew straight into my eyeball. So much in there that it might, in fact, still be in there. I felt it get sucked in from the wind tunnel the brim of my hat created and flew directly into the inner corner of my eye. I could feel it. It was cold which immediately shot goosebumps down my body. With my eye watering profusely, I bent over like I got shot. Bicycles are flying past me as I grip Boomer’s leash so he doesn’t clothesline anyone. I dig my finger into my eye but am unable to see through my phone camera to see if it is still in there, doing whatever a bug that just flew into eye juices does—biting at my cornea, laying eggs so near my brain, or defecating from pure fright. It was overwhelming going through the possibilities this bug was doing to me, assuming it didn’t get obliterated from the force of impact.

It’s then that I had a come to Jesus moment, minus the Jesus. A pure coincidence of fate can happen and alter everything. Unlike a car crash or elephant crossing, this tiny subtle realization hit me almost as hard as the bug did.  At any moment a bug can tunnel vision itself into my eyehole, burry itself behind my eye, and lay eggs for me to birth within weeks. My life may have changed its complete course due to this bug. I could be that thumbnail of a video on your Snapchat home screen, “girl’s eye engulfed by larva.” Ugh. It makes me shutter writing this with only 70% confidence that the bug is no longer in my eye.

So, you know what I’m going to do now? I’m going to live life like the bug is still in there, defecating, and counting down my days until the birth of its thousands of babies. I’m going to do exactly and only what I want. I’m going to buy myself ice cream even though I was just at the ice cream shop yesterday. I’m going to let my worries go because it could only be a short time until my time as a regular two-eyed girl comes to a close.

What Matters: The long ride after the longest ride.

This is a new segment of my blog. It’s called What Matters.

Millennials are supposedly the loneliest generation. We have the luxury of connecting with each other in more ways than what has been possible in the past. With the emerging of the internet and social media, we can connect with humans across the world from us, instantaneously. So, why are we so lonely?

We live in a society where no one talks about their real life. Maybe it’s from the stigma and shame of vulnerability. We think no one wants to know how we are really feeling, so we respond with “I’m good, how are you?” 

We choose to show how we want to be seen by posting our active moments, our adventurous selves, and our beautiful faces on social media. We cover our blemishes, our scars, with filters. Even those not participating in the social media world put filters on themselves and what they share with others. Nobody gets that close to anyone. What we give are the good looking framed pieces of our lives. 

So, this segment is meant to shed light on the real moments of life. On the moments that we don’t talk about, the moments that we don’t think anybody cares about. Really, the moments that we are scared to share. Because life is not all good. We forget that we all lose our cool sometimes. This is not meant to be a pity party, or me venting, but to show pivotal moments in my life that are real, are ugly, and even embarrassing. Because I am not just the filtered cropped pictures on my socials, and neither are you. If we share ourselves with each other more, really become transparent with one another, we may realize that we are more relatable with each other than we thought. From there, maybe we can beat the loneliness that consumes our generation.

Every moment in our life matters. Our feelings matter. The small things matter.

So, I want to share my moments. Because they mean something to me. I might leave out the backstory. I might leave it vague. But, I aim to share some small parts of my story, my life, that would normally get shoved under the rug and never spoken about. 

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THE LONG RIDE AFTER THE LONGEST RIDE

Sitting there, after ripping my own heart out just hours ago, I hold a carnation given to me by a stranger. I feel every bump of the shuttle ride. I shift around my backpack on my lap and stare at a spot on the floor.  I feel eyes on me by the people sitting across from me. I know they can tell I’ve been crying. I let it stain my face. I don’t care. I sit there with a broken heart and a shattered frame of mind, flower in hand. When I get home I put the flower in a glass of water. The next morning it starts to show signs of wilting. The next day even more so. I let it sit on my kitchen table until it bends low below the rim of the glass, dead in a puddle of water.

The Denver Café Chronicles—Prodigy Coffee

Mission: Every week I visit a new café/coffee shop in Denver, and write an article that has 2 segments. The first part, “the fact,”  is my experience at the café, a review if you will, how I’m feeling, what I see, etc… The second part, “the fiction,” consists of a fictional story that I come up with while at the café. I grab onto my surroundings, the vibes, and my feelings to inspire the short story.
fact
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It is a hot, hot day. I’ve been outside for the majority of it, and all I want is an ice cold caffeinated beverage. I’ve got some time to kill in between my work day so I decide to find a coffee shop along my route. I find a few nearby but there’s a name that stands out to me which is five minutes out of my way. Googling the photos of this coffeehouse, I’m attracted to the bright murals painted on the outside of the building. Pulling up to Prodigy Coffeehouse, I notice the shop is its own building with large garage-style doors. There are people spread out working on their computers and meeting with people. The vibes are fresh and cool as I walk into the shop, music is softly bumping. I’m greeted by two pleasant baristas. I ask about a drink on the menu and the barista politely explains it’s just a frozen drink, similar to “their friends across the street”. I look over his shoulder out the large barn door windows to see what he’s talking about realizing immediately that it’s Starbucks. I order myself an iced homemade chai and ask him to throw some espresso in it. He doesn’t ask me how much, but smiles and nods his head as he types it into the computer. I also order a cheesecake brownie, because well, brownie.

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There is a lot of open seating available, inside and out. I like the vibes inside, so I choose a booth next to a closed glass garage door. I like booths because I can easily sit cross-legged in them. There’s a cute large pup sleeping on the floor next to my spot. I pretty much devour my brownie in a matter of seconds, to the point where the last few bites are tasteless due to the sugar overload on my tongue. I sit enjoying my brownie, taking sips of my iced chai and look around the room. The coffee bar is made up of these cool looking green ceiling tiles, the kind you might find on the ceiling of an old pub. I notice I’m surrounded by my favorite color, lime green. There are quotes on the wall and my favorite one says “it is certainly true that you can’t judge a book by its cover, nor can you judge a book by its first chapter—even if that chapter is twenty years long.” For some reason, that one resonates with me.

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I’m noticing that I am becoming extremely sweaty sitting in this booth. Half of my body is in direct sunlight, and it’s enough to make me move to a table out of the sun. It’s no booth, but I still manage to find myself sitting cross-legged in the chair. A nice breeze blows on me from the open garage doors. This coffeehouse is possibly one of my favorite cafés I’ve been to yet. The openness of the building with the glass garage doors, the concrete floors and countertops, the booth and table seating, the hip music playing above, and the trendy yet simple menu all create this very familiar yet unique vibe. This place just feels cool. But not the too cool kind of place. The kind of place that I could see myself sitting in during the middle of the day in shorts, often. I’m so content sitting here, but I get a tad sidetracked when I stumble across videos of adults seeing colors for the first time. I’m literally crying in the middle of this coffeehouse and I love it.

 

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fiction

Jim and Carrie sit at the end of the old wooden dock and let their feet dangle above the water. The pot roast Jim started a few hours ago has about 30 more minutes until it’s ready. Every Sunday, they make a nice dinner, spend time outside together, and make sure that their phones are away left charging in their room. Sunday is their day.

“I promise, I will pick up the poop!” Carrie yells at him with a giant smirk on her face.

“No way in hell. We do not have the time for a puppy right now!” Jim never had pets as a child and doesn’t relate with Carrie on her want to get a dog.

“But we have this huge yard. Just imagine little Jimmy jumping off this dock playing catch!”

“Okay, so first off, if we get a dog, it will definitely not be named after ME. Second off, I love you.” He pauses as he smiles and looks into her hopeful eyes. “Third off, maybe in a couple years.”

“YEARS! Nooooo,” she wails. “I simply cannot accept that answer.” She is folding her arms now like a child would in any tantrum. Her lips are pursed and her chin is raised to the sky. “I’m gonna convince you, just you wait.” She quickly swings her feet onto the dock, jumps up, then bends down to kiss the back of his neck. “You’ll see,” she whispers into his ear. He jumps up, and she pulls away from him and sprints down the dock to the grass. He chases after her and grabs her by the waist. He pulls her toward him and raises her off the ground, spinning her around twice.

“You and your puppy dreams are going to be the downfall of my very successful garden.” He plants a full kiss on her lips and sets her back on the ground. 

“Ha!” She spits back at him. “You mean THAT very successful garden?” She points to four wilting tomato plants across the yard.

“It has been a bad rain season!” He exclaims back at her.

“Oh my god, YOU are the one that can’t handle a puppy. I’ll come home to it dead after a business trip and you’ll say something dumb like ‘it never made itself dinner!” 

“Exactly!”

Carrie rolls her eyes. Smiling, she pulls herself away from Jim, takes his hand and leads him back to the house. The kitchen smells so good of pot roast. The evening has gotten chilly and the house still has some warmth left in it from the warm day.

“Hey babe, can you put the garlic bread in? I’ll make the salad.”

“Oh, you mean your famous lettuce and cheese?” Carrie shot back to him as she places the bread in the oven.

“Hey now, simplicity is the best.”

“Simplicity is boring. And tasteless.” Carrie moves behind Jim and grabs a couple fresh tomatoes she bought from a farmers market earlier that morning. “See, THIS is what you could have. Someday. Definitely, after we get our puppy.”

“Oh! I promise you. We will have fresh homegrown tomatoes long before we have a puppy.” He replies back, shredding a block of cheese.

“I won’t hold my breath.” She takes out a cutting board from the cabinets under Jim, and slices up the tomato. “Oh, I forgot!” She excitedly jumps and prances over to the fridge. “I picked up this awesome balsamic vinaigrette at the market this morning. The old man selling it was so cute. I had like a 10-minute conversation with him.” She handed it to Jim and he looked it over.

“Cool bottle,” he says. He opens it up and puts a couple drops onto his finger. “Mmmm.” He then proceeds to slowly pour it over the lettuce. “I think we have some pine nets left over from the other night.” Carrie went over to the pantry and grabbed the small bag of nuts.

“See!” Jim shouted. Way more than just lettuce and cheese.”

“Barely, babe.” She smacks his butt and takes out 2 wine glasses from the open cupboard. “Got this too.” She waves a wine bottle above her head.

“Nice.” He smirks at her while he mixes the salad.

She places the glasses down with a slight clank. Jim turns into Carrie, grabs her face with both hands and gives her a hard kiss on her forehead. Carrie crinkles her nose as he pulls away.

“Your hands are so wet,” she says as she dramatically wipes her face with the sleeve of her shirt and gives him a big side smile as she turns to open the wine bottle.

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We get hit with blows. Right to the face.

When I’m going through what feels like a shit storm, I let myself feel it all. I become super-aware of my emotion. I let it sink into me, and I sit with it.

And then, I get up. I turn the water on and wash my hands.

I sit on the couch like it’s Tuesday.

I laugh when it’s funny.

I focus when I need to.

I create.

Because at a moment, a brief random stupid moment, that damn storm blows right back into my face.

And it’s hard.

For a couple seconds.

For a few minutes.

Hell, for an entire hour.

I sit in that storm and let the water run down my hair and into my eyes.

I find peace when I hold my breath, and then slowly let it out. It’s then that I remember it was something great. So, I smile.

The Denver Café Chronicles—Federal Coffee

Mission: Every week I visit a new café/coffee shop in Denver, and write an article that has 2 segments. The first part, “the fact,”  is my experience at the café, a review if you will, how I’m feeling, what I see, etc… The second part, “the fiction,” consists of a fictional story that I come up with while at the café. I grab onto my surroundings, the vibes, and my feelings to inspire the short story.
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the fact

IMG_2475This coffee shop has tall ceilings, and possibly the coolest coffee bar I’ve seen yet. There’s a tall skinny green tree of a plant in the corner giving the whole coffee shop life. A small round succulent sits in the middle of each table, and I sit down on the long leather booth that runs along an entire wall. A massive old circular mirror hangs above the coffee bar, and a single art piece sits next to it on the counter. It’s a painting on metal. I look around and notice the bare brick walls, and realize that is the only piece of art in this shop—besides a naked lady painting in the back hallway of the bar. I overhear another customer ask if they’re setting up for an art show. 

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I then notice the metal wires hanging down the wall behind me, intended to hang art. The barista says they are actually getting ready to hang up new art, probably tonight. She points over to the metal painting down the bar and says he’s the artist they are going to be showcasing. This makes me wish I came here tomorrow so I could see the shop in its prime with badass metal paintings covering the walls.

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I am getting a retro vibe in here. It’s partially the spacey, almost 80’s themed modern music, and it’s partially the feel that the old massive wooden mirror gives the place. You know when something just feels spooky or haunted? Well, it feels like this mirror has seen things, and been around sitting high in places for a very long time. I can’t help but get some Stanley hotel vibes from it. It has stories to tell, and now it sits here, absorbing and reflecting the energy of the shop. I dig it. Sitting in the booth, it’s nice and warm. I can hear the heat pumping through the space on this cool morning. While the shop is small, its tall 18-foot ceilings give it a large feel.

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There’s no menu anywhere I see. Only a small sign advertising the coffee beans being sold by the bag. I order a dry cappuccino, and damn it’s good. I’m tempted to get a freshly made doughnut, but I decide that the banana pancakes I just ate at home were enough for this morning. As I type this, I am second guessing my decision. The wood floors look like the may be the original flooring, the skinny kind you see in old houses with wooden archways in the hallways. Each person that walks in this morning seems to be a regular here. That is always a good sign of a good coffee shop, especially in the vast coffee scene of Denver. Its only fault, and a big one at that, is that whatever music streaming station they are using has commercials. Very unfortunate.

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the fiction

Kimberly sways with the music. She begins to lose herself under the music and the gin and tonics she’s been drinking all night. She throws her hands in the air and moves her body back and forth, slightly bumping into the people dancing next to her. It’s like an ocean in here. Everyone’s body is in sync with the music and the vibe of the club, and they’re all riding the waves together. Kimberly loves coming here. Its chill vibes easily suck her into the dance floor and she finds she is able to dance the night away, by herself.

She never brings her friends here. She likes that this is her place, a place she feels comfortable enough to let herself sway with strangers all night. The stresses of her week get swept out from under her feet and she is carried solely by the groovy music playing above. Her friends wouldn’t like this place anyway. There’s no annoying bumping club music, and no one taking selfies with their friends on the booths around the dance floor.

This is not a place people come to party. People do come here to drink, sure. But its more on a mature chill with the help of fancy garnished drinks from the bar. It’s a place people come to dance. The kind of dancing where you run your fingers up through your hair and groove your arms up over your head as you sway your hips back and forth. Swaying just isn’t enough for some people. Some people need the noise. Some people need the scene to consist of girls snap chatting their friend getting down on the dance floor with people taking shots on shots of liquor in the background. Some people need chaos to escape. Sometimes Kim enjoys that scene, but most Friday nights she ends up here. 

Kimberly’s a vampire artist. Meaning, she only is an artist at night. By day, she’s a social worker handling troubled cases. She loves the work she does, but it takes a toll on her. More than she thought it would. She always considered herself strong and capable of handling a lot, but the kind of social work she does is another level. Every day leaves her emotionally drained and exhausted. Her art is what shakes her awake. She’ll stay up all night even on days she has to work early in the morning. Her art is important to her, and without it, she thinks she would crumble.

Kimberly has been dancing for a solid half hour without getting another drink. A slow groove of a song ends and she feels her whole body take a deep breath. She briefly takes a moment to close her eyes and feel the sensations of her body. The cool sweat at the nape of her neck, the hardwood floor beneath her feet, the smell of coffee from a table nearby, and taste of gin still on her tongue. She opens her eyes and propels herself forward off the dance floor. She floats to the bar to close her bill. She sits on the soft bar stool, her long skirt wavering just off the floor. She kicks her feet back and forth slowly. Her chin sits atop her hand as she looks out at the dance floor and across the bar. A crooked soft smile stains her face, and her lips feel full and soaked in gin. The bartender, a handsome tall man wearing a bowtie and jeans hands her card over with a wink.

“Next time, Kim.”

“See ya, Mac.”

She smiles and slides off the stool. Still floating, she moves inside the crowd and makes her way to the front door. As she opens it, the coolness of the night sweeps across her face and fills her nose with the smell of wet asphalt. She pauses for a moment before she takes her next steps. She can feel her eyelids, heavily blink over her eyes. She walks a couple business down to a New York style pizza place and orders herself a large pepperoni slice. She takes her pizza on a flimsy paper plate and sits down on the curb in front of the pizza place. She watches people move in the streets, cars slowly passing by, and she watches the stop light to her left change colors several times. When she finishes off her crust, she licks her fingers of the parmesan and grease. She stands herself up, throws away her plate, and points herself in the direction of her home which is just down a block. It is lightly drizzling as she walks slowly, still floating, down the sidewalk under tall swaying green trees. 

The Denver Café Chronicles—The Weathervane Cafe

Mission: Every week I will visit a new café/coffee shop in Denver. I will write, blog, at each one. The article will have 2 segments. The first part, “the fact,”  will be my experience at the café, a review if you will, how I’m feeling, what I see, etc… The second part, “the fiction,” will consist of a fictional story that I come up with while at the café. I’ll be grabbing onto my surroundings, the vibes, and my feelings to inspire a short story.
the fact

I couldn’t be more pleasantly surprised stepping into this quaint and quirky coffee shop. From the outside, it looks like a little house with big red umbrellas and a large sign with an urban font in white capital letters reading “Weathervane.” The windows seem to be dark and covered and it’s not easy to tell if there are people inside, let alone if they are open. The front door has one of those old door knobs that looks like it has a swooping nose that you press down to open. Music gushes through the crack of the door as I open it. I immediately am hit with warmth. The kind that you feel on your skin, and the kind that you feel in your belly. Feeling the warmth in my belly, I can’t help but smile as I look around at the small space.

IMG_1915 I set my bag down at a table in between two tables occupied by people happily chatting away. I go to take my wallet out when I notice the sign on the table that reads, “this table is reserved for dining and socializing. NO LAPTOPS.” Awkwardly, I stand there for several seconds, hand in my bag, reading this sign, deciding what to do since I came here to be on my laptop. I notice my awkward lingering next  to the people sitting down at the table next to me, so I take my hand out of my bag, set it down, head to the counter only to realize that I indeed did not grab my wallet, so I turn back around to again awkwardly fumble around in my bag. Walking back up to the counter, which is more like taking 3 steps, I look over the menu which has a plentiful amount of breakfast foods and sandwiches. Wondering if I should get something sweet or savory, I decide on a breakfast burrito, because, burrito. When I see a burrito on the menu in a café, it’s almost a reaction to order it. I get myself a cappuccino as well, my other go to order. Something I’ve noticed from visiting all these cafés is they always ask me if whole milk is ok, which I am more than fine with. Back in the midwest at the cafés I’d go to, the typical milk they use is 2% and they just assume that you will be fine with it.

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After ordering, I look around a bit, and notice that there’s a sign next to a staircase that says “more seating upstairs.” As soon as I read this, I head up the old wooden windy staircase. I almost trip as I reach the last step and pretty much fall into a room that is occupied with two people reading, and one person on a laptop. The room is oddly quiet, and everyone is now looking at me. I give a little smirk and catch my feet below me as I stop the momentum of my body. Once I refocus my eyes, I see that the room is nicely lit by the morning sun. The room has couches and a couple of quirky tables. The wood floors squeak as I walk on them. It is very noticeable since the room is deadly quiet. I try to make silent footsteps as I walk into another small room just off the main big one. I find myself in a small long light blue room with long tables along the wall. It’s obvious that this coffee shop used to be a house. “This is where I am going to write,” I think as I smile. Nobody is in this room, there’s more of a glow coming through the window, and the room has a soft quiet feeling. I hear my name being called downstairs. I turn around, hear the loud creak of the floor below me, and head back downstairs, carefully.

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My cappuccino comes up first, so I sit down at a table near the counter as I wait for my burrito. The music fills the space, and the people talking loudly next to me are not very noticeable. Great vibes. Like super great vibes. Everyone who walks through the door looks like they just got off their bike.

When my burrito comes up, I take it back to the table I was sitting at. I take a couple sips of my cappuccino as I enjoy the ambiance of the place before I head back upstairs. As soon as I step onto the staircase the sound of the café seems to sink into the wood floor and stay there. When I get upstairs, the quiet fills my ears, the music from downstairs is muffled, and now the conversations from downstairs echo and are more apparent. I put my stuff down in the blue room at a very small table that may have been an old sewing table. The burrito is so good, hot, with a deliciously spicy salsa that I scoop up with my burrito. As soon as it touches my mouth my stomach lets out a loud grumble. It’s a combination of my morning hunger, and the excitement to write in this space that leads me to finish the entire burrito in a matter of minutes.

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the fiction

Albert sits in his lab, his reading glasses sit at the tip of his nose as he reads his notes on his study. His notes on the blue-winged dragonfly, beautifully massive, cover the pages. There are scribbles off to the side, and the curves of his letters sway on the page like they’re dancing. Some scientists like to keep a digital record of their notes, but Albert prefers them this way. He lets his assistants make digital copies, but he never uses those for his own reference. When he’s not out collecting samples, Albert spends most of his time in his lab. His workspaces are tall old wooden tables. Framed insects hang on the walls in dark wooden frames. He labels each one with a number, and has a reference of that number in a large journal, corresponding to each insect he has collected. The journal lays on its own tall wooden stand, looking like a guest book you’d find at a bed and breakfast. The lab always smells like burning coffee, since there is always old burnt coffee in the coffee pot. Albert makes a whole pot early in the morning and leaves it on all day. He never finishes it. His assistants come and go every few hours. He sends them on assignments to observe the insects or environment that are part of the current study. They bring back their findings and he relates them with his own observations. He will only keep the insects that he collects himself, and any that his assistants bring back either go home with them or in the compost outside after they’ve been photographed.

Albert and his team are almost at the end of this study, so most of his time is spent going over all the notes taken, and re-writing all the conclusions made by the collective team. This part of the process has always been Albert’s favorite part. He likes the feeling of things coming to a full circle. His, now, ex-wife hated when his studies came to this point. Albert would spend very late nights at the lab. His work would take up all of his time and eventually all of his care.  She left him after 15 years. Albert didn’t mind this much. His routine didn’t change much other than the fact that he now was the one putting his lunches together, which he didn’t mind either.

Albert didn’t have much of a sense of humor, and when he did attempt at one, his assistants met him with a soft chuckle before quickly leaving the room. Albert always had a good laugh by himself once they left. He’d repeat the joke out loud, make eye contact with whatever insect lay in front of him, sprawled open with pins, and laugh with himself. He thought he was quite hilarious sometimes.

Each evening before he heads home, he has the same routine of shutting down his lab. He walks around and switches off all the lamps. He neatly piles his notes in order and sets up for the next day. He lays out the next day’s assignments for his assistants and writes a plan for them on top of their pile. He quietly looks over his specimens and leaves the lamp on above them. He finally turns off the coffee pot, dumps any left over in the sink, and places it back on the heater as it loudly grumbles. He sweeps over the room with eyes and picks up any loose materials. He is very neat, and tidiness is the feel of the lab. He takes his coat off the coatrack, swings it over his shoulder as he switches off the main light switch with his other hand. He locks the heavy front door and steps down to the sidewalk where his car is parked, right in front of the lab. His five-minute drive is always quick and quiet. When he gets home, he opens up his front door to the same stillness, the same quiet that he finds so pleasant in his lab.

Denver Café Chronicles—Joe Maxx Coffee Company

Mission: Every week I will visit a new café/coffee shop in Denver. The daunting part of this plan is that I intend to write, blog, at each one. My idea is to have 2 segments. The first part, “the fact,” of the blog will be my experience at the café, a review if you will, how I’m feeling, what I see, etc… The second part, “the fiction,” will consist of a fictional story that I come up with while at the café. I’ll be grabbing onto my surroundings, the vibes, and my feelings to inspire a short story.
the fact

The Santa Fe art district is looking fresh. Despite the dirty snow piled up on the side street parking spots, this Sunday morning is pretty, cold, and bright. Walking into the Joe Maxx Coffee Company I push onto the right side of the door, no budge. A quick sweat of panic sweeps over me as I think to myself, “dammit Emily, you didn’t check to make sure they are open today.” I pause for a moment then push onto the left side of the door and it sways open. I’m definitely one of those people who acknowledge my awkward moments, but alas, no one was around to hear my ramblings. It’s pretty empty in this coffee shop this morning, with the exception of a table of middle-aged women loudly talking amongst each other.

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Before I grab a drink, I head to the back of the shop to have a look around. It’s small, and the windows are shaded from the bright morning. The walls and floors are dark brown, and there are old rugs under each table. I choose a spot in the back corner on a couch that you would find at your friend’s grandparent’s house. I take off my coat and oversized blanket of a scarf and place them onto the couch. I go up to the front and take a moment to look over the menu. There are specialty coffee items on the menu like a White and Dirty, Spiked Lemonade, and an Affogato which is a scoop of vanilla ice cream drowned with a fresh hot shot of espresso. So tempted to order this ice cream based drink, I decide it’s too early for dessert, so I order the Kolache Latte which is a hazelnut latte topped with honey, whipped cream, and pecans—perfectly on the brink of desert. I ask the barista if I said it right, to which another barista standing near him corrects my pronunciation. I also order a slice of pumpkin bread. When he hands it to me he says “this is a massive piece of pumpkin bread.”

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“Oh, awesome.” I excitedly reply. And it was in fact, a massive piece of moist pumpkin deliciousness piled onto a small glass white plate. While the milk for my Kolache Latte is being warmed and foamed, I look around at some of the funky art hanging on the brick walls. Music is being played, I’m assuming, from the plugged-in iPod laying on an old turntable. The barista calls out my coffee drink, and I go back up to retrieve my gooey looking over whipped cream drink in a to-go cup. Hurriedly, I head back to my spot and place my drink and pumpkin bread on the coffee table in front of the couch. I marvel for a moment at the toppings on my hazelnut latte. I’m also definitely the kind of person that has to eat all of the whipped cream off my drinks before I do anything else. I think it’s ridiculous letting it pathetically melt into your hot beverage without enjoying the creaminess of its intended state. 

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So, here I am, slurping up the honey-topped whipped cream, which is making my lips gooey and messy, and I couldn’t be happier. I lick my lips of the thick honey, and resume scooping the rest of the whipped cream off the top with the fork I’m using for my pumpkin bread. When I finally finish off all the good stuff my drink is down to half full. I dive into my bread and eat about half of it while I look around the shop noticing how every corner is being utilized for something—decoration or purpose. The corner directly in front of me to the left has a small old wooden TV table with one of those old black and white TVs that have two knobs for changing channels and an antenna. “Cool,” I think as I shove a giant piece of bread into my mouth. I don’t even mind that the bathrooms are across from me. The “all gender restrooms” are hip with art, white bath tiles, and uneven brick walls. I even stand up and walk over into one of them to check it out. “Cool,” I say out loud this time. The one thing I always remember when I check out a new restaurant or business—the bathrooms, if they’re worthy. I’m all about cool bathrooms.

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While I’m up I continue to walk around the small space of the back of the coffee shop. There’s an old piano with a bench covered in itchy looking fabric. Where sheets of music are meant to be, there are business cards placed along the ledge. I almost pick up one of a woman who connects to spirits, but then decide there are no spirits I need to reach out to, so I leave it for someone who really needs her services. I do, however, pick up a business card of a woman who claims to be able to “facilitate my self-healing” and also a card from the Colorado Ballet where their slogan on the bottom of the card is “Drink Beer, Dance, Conquer.” Smiling as I take my new finds back to my area, I sink down into the couch and pull out my laptop.

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the fiction

Billy laid his forearms on the sticky wood glazed bar of the dark dance hall. A Johnny Cash album played quietly from the turntable in the corner. Despite the warm bright morning, the hall was dark and cold. Before his first dance class, Billy liked to get to work early and have a bourbon at the bar. He’d been leading dance classes for 20 years, and just two years ago he bought this place from an old man whose wife had just passed. The old man was happy to hear Billy’s plans for the place. “Babe loved to dance. She would be happy to see this dump of a bar used for dancing.” Billy remembers the old man saying this, looking off into the distance for a good 30 seconds, and then handed Billy the keys saying, “Good luck, son.”

It took Billy three months to convert the old bar into a dance hall. He put in new wood flooring and painted the brick walls a deep red color. He put in a wall of mirrors across from the bar.  He left the old bar there, he liked it. Even though he couldn’t sell booze, he kept a stash of nice bourbon under the counter and would often drink either by himself or with some of his regular patrons after the late classes.

This morning was no different from any other morning. Billy offered morning classes every weekday starting at 10 AM. The people who attended the morning classes were mostly of the older crowd, and his favorite. They would come in loud, always laughing about some conversation they all had while walking together to the hall. Someone would bring in pastries or biscuits, and Billy supplied them with coffee. They would all sit around the bar and have a cup of coffee before they would start. They never got to the actual dancing until 10:30. He would pour the first cup of coffee as they were stepping into the door promptly at 10, and set down a new full cup at each seat of the bar. Each of them greeting him with either a loud “Billy!,” or a nod and a “mornin, Bill.” There was a good mix of men and women, most of them single. All were friends, and all met at Billy’s Hall.

For the morning classes, Billy changed up the dance every week. These people came here for the social aspect of the hall rather than the actual dance, so they didn’t mind the inconsistency of the dances. They actually seemed to enjoy learning new dances, laughing together as they misstepped. Today Billy was teaching swing dance, one that he’d done many times with this morning group.

This morning’s topic of conversation was about the new neighborhood community garden being built a block over. They were all talking about the plots they had already bought, and what they planned on planting in them. As each of them talked about the vegetable or flower they were planning on growing, everyone chimed in with what they would do with the plant—going on tangents on each topic.

“Oh, my grandkids LOVE watermelon, I’m going to grow that too!”

“Ooo I’ll bring in some homemade tomatillo salsa every week. Who likes spicy?”

“My father used to make the best fried green tomatoes…”

Almost in an uproar of volume, the group would excitedly chime in with responses.

Billy sat at the end of the bar, sitting on his stool behind the bar sipping on his black coffee. Smiling, he listened to each person’s response and offered his own comical spats. The sound of coffee cups hitting the heavy wood bar, the rusted stools swiveling, and the clammer of the group gave Billy’s Hall a character that he never expected but, now, oh so appreciated. Billy enjoyed what this group made this place out to be.

He looked down at his watch. “Alright, people, 10:30,” Billy spoke loudly over everyone. In almost a single sweep everyone was out of their chairs, coffee cups left on the bar.