I sat sipping coffee at a lone table in the farthest corner of my favourite café. At this point, I wonder why that is a relevant detail. That is, quite frankly, all I do. Looking back over the years, I have consumed coffee and talked about everything around myself; no other significant achievement comes to mind.
What would you see if you saw someone sitting by themselves reading on a Tuesday afternoon? Perhaps, they’ll appear as too sure, doing whatever they want, against all of society, in silent rebellion. Maybe, they’ll appear as too clueless, unaware of the day or time or age, sitting there, affecting nothing.
I often saw myself from afar and saw both of them at the same time. That was why I was often dazed when an old friend or an acquaintance ran into me in a café. They’d ask me to join them if I wanted to, and I’d just stare at them before telling them I was okay by myself.
I had always been okay by myself. Yet, I wanted people to ask me to join them. There was freedom in being able to choose. That was the one thing I could choose with certainty in life, and I craved that certainty. I’d be lying if I said I ever told anyone “”yes, I’ll join you, thanks for asking.””
They talk about it in metaphors about critters and bugs. They say a caterpillar became a butterfly only after it built a cocoon. They say a seed had to break through a shell to start growing.
What if, I ask, what if the caterpillar spends too much time in its cocoon? What if it forgets it ever wanted to break out? What if the seed was never told it had to break out of the hard coat? What if it can’t? Surely some seeds shrivelled and some caterpillars suffocated.
My cluelessness was my cocoon; my assurance in myself was my coat. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do. I was, perhaps, a caterpillar who wasn’t told how to build a true cocoon or worse: tricked and never taught how to emerge out.
I sat sipping coffee at a lone table in the farthest corner of my favourite café on a Tuesday afternoon, and my hoodie over a shirt looked ridiculous to me for the first time. I suddenly started feeling older—older and purposeless.
Were my years of grand, proud flaneurism coming to an end?