They couldn’t fix the furnace. I slept in my coat and slippers under two heavy blankets with an obese cat by my side.
It reminded me of camping in late autumn. Clear, cold nights in a ratty tent, snug in a sleeping bag on uneven ground, stones digging into my flesh. I never slept well. I’d wake up before anyone else and contemplate the cruelty of nature, stirring embers with a stick as the morning light slivered the sky. Last night my bed was softer than the frozen earth but I woke up and thought about the senseless struggle of existence.
I have a key to my cafe, so I can get in whenever I want. At least I have a warm place to go and drink coffee at 3 in the morning while grim winter overtakes my home. Now I’m looking at another lagging day, another useless stretch of time. Fatigue is my foundation, my center. I’m an exile from the kingdom of sleep, a wanderer in the desert of scorched awareness.
You know when you wake up that the day will be good for nothing, that you’ll survive on the strength of impersonal, unwilled routine. Moving, speaking, smiling, emoting; all unconscious and dulled, following from a mechanical necessity. When I’m tired I’m numb to everything but tedium.
This afternoon two repair guys came to the house and they couldn’t fix the furnace either. It needs a new circuit board, which they have to order and will take days to arrive. I got a room at a super 8. A coworker and friend offered his couch, which I appreciate, but I don’t sleep well on couches and by that time my exhaustion was critical. I needed a bed in a warm room.
Setbacks make me bitter and reclusive. The feeling of failure drives me to reject help and goodwill, to isolate myself and soak in a broth of self-pity. One negative event sparks an explosion of retrospective resentment. My mind idles and dies before the mysteries of the cosmos, but it jolts to life when surveying my many disappointments. It’s never an isolated incident, it’s always the culmination of a series of bad choices. I don’t have accidents, I serve my sentences.
Another night in an unfamiliar place. I gave in and slept at my bosses house. He lives in a charming neighborhood of historic, renovated houses with porches and verandas. His wife is a lawyer and their house is spacious and clean. They have more spare bedrooms than the total number of rooms in my house. I slept for six hours and then trudged back out into the heart-stopping cold for another early shift. I made iced coffee at five in the morning and later in the day I burned my thumb on a baking tray.
The café where I work is active on social media; we project an image of warm service in an elegant setting. We offer cocktail inspired lattes with creative ingredients and complex flavor profiles. Our latest Instagram picture shows pistachio powder caught in midair on its way down to the surface of a pistachio latte. I make drinks with six or seven steps and three or four garnishes. I’ve also been wearing the same pair of shoes for the last five years and my socks get wet when it rains and my feet smell like a feedlot.
The man who lights an orange peel over your drink lives in a house without heat or a bathroom door. The product hides the poverty of the worker. You taste the toasted star anise in your latte, not the sweat of the illiterate bean picker. When we do become aware of what’s behind our enjoyment, we soon forget it. My own lowly station rests on the backs of even lower laborers; the flannel shirt I’m wearing was hurriedly stitched by the gnarled hands of a malnourished Chinese peasant.
I abandoned my house and the landlord didn’t try to stop me. She asked me not to tell her ex husband because he would let his ex girlfriend live there. Now I’m homeless and living out of a bag. This weekend I’m going to my parent’s house to stay alive as temperatures drop below zero again.
Skin splitting winds, air that will chap your nutsack. We’re deep in the heart of a dark, savage winter and I just deserted my house. I’m looking for a new place to live, a place with doors, a working furnace, and no hateful messages carved into the walls by hoodlums.