"My ankle hurts a little," said the man in the coffeeshop to the cute barista. She had her hair tied up in a bun and a tattoo of Che Guevara on her sternum just above her supple breasts. She scowled at everyone and everything as her life was in a holding pattern, going on a few years, give or take an eternity or two. She just wanted to be an oceanographer, a guardian of majestic whales of mysterious sea creatures who carry intelligence that the average coffee drinker had no understanding of. Every bastard who wanted a specialty coffee, rife with sugary, consciousness-lowering garbage was glowered at with a hatred borne of not getting what she wanted years ago. Stella was not going to go quietly into the gentle night, oh no, she wasn’t. She was going to go loudly into the ocean, into the bosom of deep blue sea and never return. Yes, she was land-based now, but how much longer could it last? She was now 48 and aging rapidly. She had the heart of a lion, the eyes of a tiger, and the patience of a turtle. Craving a cigarette, she excused herself from the coffee steamer and got Melanie to cover for her. Melanie was 23 and not interested in anything but having a good time with hot guys who splayed attention on her like the sun. She stepped into the coffee station, watching Stella go out the front door and light up. She thought it bizarre that Stella was so interested, one might even say obsessed, about the damn ocean. She loved going to the beach to tan and stuff, but why would anyone want to see what was in the freaking thing? It was gross! She hated when her foot stepped on something she couldn’t identify. Jellyfish were the thing that would chase her out of the water immediately and make her want to shoot up. She liked heroin. Oh, did I forget to mention that? I’m so sorry. Let me kill myself. I am not thrilled with being the storyteller who weaves this tale for you. Always trying to balance sorrow, insight, and humor. I am just a guy who is overweight, sitting on a recliner with an iPad Pro and a cup of coffee trying to hammer out a piece that will make me feel a little bit better about myself and therefore about life. Joe Biden, who is a historical war-mongering politician, gave a speech last night to a sparse audience due to the pandemic. He proposed some help for the Americans who ... what the hell am I doing? I just wanted to write about a chick who’s into the ocean, then I mentioned heroin, and you judged me, and I went on an apologetic attempt that became infested with politics, doubt, and a lack of creative juice. Yes, I've been sidetracked. I mean, can you imagine if I went on with this story about an oceanographer trapped in a faux artsy coffeehouse with a heroin addict who managed to be superficial despite a serious addiction? Can you imagine that? How great and diverting that would’ve been for the both of us? Well, my ankle hurts from having sprained it a month and a half ago, and the podiatrist said it could be three months before it heals. All this to say that I have been twirling the aforementioned ankle while writing the story of the oceanographer and the heroin addict. Should that be the title? THE OCEANOGRAPHER AND THE HEROIN ADDICT. I like it! I really do! But the ankle thing had made me a bit of a pill, a bit of a grouch who doesn’t want to please. I know that you want me to get back to the damn story, and I know that this meta observational detour is a bit tepid, but I am divided. I am the addict, and I am the ocean. I am the addict, and I am the ocean. That’s another good title! There is a fire that started a little while ago in a trash basket by my foot (the good foot). I am watching it burn, hoping the smoke alarm doesn’t go off. I seriously hope it doesn’t get bigger. I tossed a match from a cigar I lit a little while ago. I love smoking a cigar while writing. I feel like an old-school boxing scribe, like Bert Sugar (look him up, you artsy fucks). Stella finished her cigarette and tossed the burning stick into a pile of documents that were next to the coffeeshop. She had been daydreaming about her Uncle Mike who was a writer who was always injured. She loved Mike because he reflected back to her the tragedy of not getting what you want, of not finding your niche in life but of keeping fighting for it no matter how old you got. One thing Stella noticed about Mike’s writing were the run-on sentences and the circles that he would spin in his stories that left you wondering if he knew how to walk a straight line into success. "Screw it," she said as she drifted back to the coffeeshop. She noticed Melanie flirting with Dennis, the surfer who piqued her interest as well. He was well-built, beautiful eyes, and the thing that endeared her most was his bum ankle.
*Feature photo by Eric Chen (Pexels)