Tuesday 16 March 2021

Coffeecore: The Goodbye



My little flâneur, this time comes for everyone in the City, sooner or later. You give your orchids to Michiko, your spare set of cocktail glassware with the swirled teal stems to Adam and Lorraine.  They throw a small party for you at work; you remember the wide-cut ties and the smell of freshly laid industrial carpeting. You wait for a storm, the kind where you can see the backs of the wind-flipped leaves on the branches and hear the windows getting pelted. There are raindrops the size of train tokens. You walk out the front door of the building, and hear it close with a hydraulic whoosh behind you.

You do not take a key. 

Was this corner here a week ago? A month? You turn to go down the slick planes of the stairs and fold your umbrella neatly as the door opens. Where you are going, you will not need it. It is such a strange coincidence of the City, the ambient suitability to all moods and happenings of its weather. 


The first thing you notice about the room is that there is not much to notice. It is what all between spaces are. The fluorescent lights hum and snap. The square tiles of the floor trail off into infinity, a grid onto which you are instantaneously mapped, the small point, moving in your wet shoes that leave apprehensions of themselves as your path. At first you hear only the name your steps make, the name you have seen everywhere lately. It is the name of the one you love, that name, the differential equation solved by all the City's puddles in five variables, the way a freshly laundered towel smells just as you grab it coming out of the shower, the way the tulips are arranged in the beds for early spring in the public gardens. You are sure it is spelled out backwards in secret on the face of the Phaistos disk, that it has been sent to you by pneumatic tube, by daylight robbery, by Bone Oracle. What else could you be so sure about, that the City's permutations would resolve to this?

You do not know how long you have been walking, intoning it like a litany, when you hear the harpsichord's plaintive, strident Rameau, or see the barefoot man with wild hair and a beard playing it. He turns to you. You cannot see his face, only the lid, its painted paradise within which you are are so sure, you glimpsed, if only for a second, the presence of a moving escalator. 

He lifts his hands from the keyboard, and says, gently--

"Everyone leaves the City, someday."

You nod.  You stare at the randomised dots in the acoustic tile of the ceiling, unsettled for the first time. 

"Someday," the man at the painted harpsichord tells you, still dripping from the storm, "perhaps it will be a pleasure to look back on all this." 

He closes the lid.


While he is brewing the coffee, he offers you desert. You eat the wobbly flan like a stranded sailor clinging to driftwood on the waves. The cherry tastes like stickers of cherries on tight-snapped school folders, like the cherries embroidered on decorative tube socks look. You play with the stem in your hand, until it too, spells the name of the absent lover.

The coffee machine is drip, and unusual. It looks like it was forged in a smithy that only makes coffee machines, vaguely cheerful but ultimately industrious, productive, subject only to the Three Laws of Robotics and the hesitant interventions of the local gods.

"It's Soviet," says the man by way of explanation, as if there is a history here, and shrugs.

The machine hums and the man hums too, this time BWV 211, a little joke.

You ease into the frame of the metal dining chair a bit, watch him as he sets out two mugs on the speckled formica.


The mugs-- cups really, for they are far too elegant to be called mugs-- are both white with traceries of blue and gold, smaller than normal, and with a gilt edge. They feel light in your trembling hands, and you know they are porcelain, like listening to shell. You are about to take a sip from the first one when he stops you.

"Little Flâneur, don't be so quick to cast your lots!"

He points to the cup you have just held. 

"Guatemala, low acidity, no milk, but sugar, two lumps. The parking lot of a cubed office building at dusk. It is not yet dark enough to see the stars."

"And the other?" you ask, thinking of your love standing there, on the asphalt, waiting.

"Sumatra, bold roast, a swirl of cream almost invisible now, no sugar, but a hint of sweetness to the coffee itself. A hotel bar where the lamps and chairs both have tassels, and you are standing behind a potted palm. You can see the lights reflected in the blue of the windows."

Or there, maybe, on a blue brocade chair, slipping slightly against the overstuffed polyester, about to gesture for a waiter.


You weigh the cups with your eyes only first, then waft them. You run your fingers around the rims. You get up from your seat and walk around the table, changing your angle of view.

The man empties the remainder of the coffee into his own mug, and drinks it slowly, watching you with eyebrows raised.

"If you know something," you say at you look up at him, your lilac sweater and paisley shawl nearly dry, "Now would be the time to say it."

"Little Flâneur, when walking for love, not even I could navigate all the streetlamps of all the cities, read the future into the leftover grounds. In this matter, I too see the arcades only by what is in the displays of their windows."

He smiles, returns to the harpsichord, props the lid up again expectantly, as if waiting for you.

"Don't let it get cold."

You make a choice, then drink. It's like being a television, white with static snow. Before your eyes open again, you are there; the next City. 

The sidewalks unfold into discrete squares. You begin to walk, looking again for a coffeeshop.

Soundtrack Suggestion:

Other Coffeecore Reading On Indoor Voices:

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