In the gaze of the other

"My mistress' eyes are nothing…"

Mindful, Mindless Moment

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Slow sipping coffee on a pre-work, getting-ready-for-it morning break, she looks out the window onto the busy street. The soft drizzle powders passersby with a glint but there is no sun to reflect the shine and create jewels of these busy movers, so they merely look dusty wet.

“I work at a mindless dead end job,” she thinks as she sits and stares out the window, the people now in bas-relief, mere objects of her unfocused gaze.

“The repetition of breaking down and building up the frozen yogurt machine, it’s the same mechanics every day of draining the yogurt, both bins of the machine, in plastic four-gallon buckets, lugging them full and heavy to the refrigerator, running water through to flush the yogurt from the moving parts inside, wiping down the yogurt bins with sanitizer, unscrewing the faceplate of the machine, pulling it out along with the mixing blades and the crank shaft, and then stripping each of those down to their basic components, washing them all methodically, drying them just as methodically, greasing them back up, putting all the pieces to the basics on again, re-assembling them into the machine and finally pouring in the yogurt and turning the machine back on. It’s mind-numbing.”

Two young girls, perhaps late teens, walk by animatedly close to the window, their pink, teased out hair bobbing before her at eye level as she sits high on a pine stool tucked in close to its matching table. She is momentarily re-focused on the street activity, removed from her reverie.

She senses she has five more minutes before she needs to hit the road and off to work, giving her enough time for prepping and opening up the shop for the day’s business. She looks at the tree trunk of a clock seemingly growing above the serving counter on the other side of the cafe to confirm her suspicion.

The decor is eco-earthen hippy with its unvarnished pine tables and chairs and natural, charcoal wood-beamed ceiling, autumn colored table cloths of deep rich dark chocolates, rusts and oranges, and leafy printed matching napkins. The coffee is organic and the pastries vegan. Los Angeles.

“But there must be a reason for me to continue working there. I could quit any time. I should quit,” she continues. “I have a Masters degree in Political Science. It’s humiliating. I could wait tables and make more.”

Approaching her table now is the smiling young waiter with the heartbreak haircut, romance and freedom spelled in its asymmetry, long locks below the left ear sweeping from short shaved up right side of his head. His eyes are rich deep espresso gleam, his smile a thin lemon peel twist.

Holding a mini coffee pot, he asks, “Do you need a re-heat?” as he smiles that twist to the corners, exposing pleasantly symmetrical square white teeth. His entire face smiles.

She cannot help but smile in rejoinder–slightly, the corners of her mouth marginally upturned while the rest of her lips remain in repose. “No thank you.”

He moves on past her after nodding faintly in her direction, the smile still installed in his face fitted out for it.

“I’m sure his job is mindless too. He seems intelligent, something in his face and eyes, his hipster clothes. I wonder if he is staying in it for money or because the schedule fits in with his school schedule, or a second job, or perhaps he’s in between careers, has criminal charges pending or is helping out a family member,” she muses. “No, those would all be me.”

Swiveling her head slowly toward the window again, her chin re-installed onto her folded up fist like a podium, she watches the people-wave rushing by. So many colors, shapes and pace of the life-passing-by street, a whir of stewed up cells, ions, protons, all the biospheric material.

“I think I have to learn something there, something about patience and process,” she ponders, immediately looking down on the three healing cuts, one deep and aggravated on her thumb and the other two older and more superficial on her index fingers.

“When I drift, let my mind wander from the immediate task, the immediate step in the process, steps as unforgiving as instructions to fixing a computer software problem, unmerciful in its unwavering necessity for methodological exactitude, I get hurt.”

A skateboarder threads the lull in the ever-marching morning mania, only two groups of three people each to skirt around.

“I have to be present and faithful to each movement in this mindless operation. Otherwise, I miss something or do it inexactly, which causes something else down the line to malfunction. Or I try to rush bending the plastic blade coverings over the metal blades, so that when my fingers force them into the tuck of the fastener, I brush the top of my thumb over the blades and catch the sharp edges for a painful skin divot.”

The smiler returns and deliberately places the bill down beside her elbow planted atop the wood and ingratiatingly near-whispers, “When you’re ready,” and he’s off, leaving the suck of air that follows him from the heated room’s palpable atmosphere of coffee particles and central heat from shared street-lined shops dust.

She opens her purse and reaches in a pocket without looking, pulling out a few singles and a five in a grab fist of money. She looks at the singles, realizes it isn’t enough and lays the five down on the check, looking for brown eyes to meet hers in the unspoken code of near departure.

She lifts her thrift-store faux leopard skin lined trench coat as it drapes across the stool on the opposite side of the table, and fits her shoulders inside the arm holes, wearing it as a cape. She swings her purse strap over her left coat-covered shoulder as she walks to the door and opens it, looks out onto the busy street, first glancing left then right, as if she were expecting to cross traffic safely. Stepping out the door onto the sidewalk, she turns right, quickening her pace to meet that of the masses, even though no one is immediately nearby to keep pace with her.

“Back to the rock pile. There’s froyo to be served to sweet craving, self-deluded folks,” she sighs as she heads briskly down the now wetter sidewalk.

4 thoughts on “Mindful, Mindless Moment

  1. From the pallet of one’s life comes a picture of morning in a real reading adventure. All those pieces and textures, I need to be more aware of where I am and what I am sensing. You’re writing makes me feel like I am there. You’re description of being at the cash register and reaching in your purse….. Like you’re painting that moment. Awesome, it’s all good.

  2. Jane Alice Prufrock

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