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Tilly: A teaspoon of life

BY ZACH TILLY | APRIL 19, 2013 5:00 AM

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Last week, I learned the Market Street T-Spoons is closing down and shortly thereafter, the world went to shit.

I planned, upon hearing that first bit of news, to write in this space an obituary for my erstwhile coffeehouse of choice filled with brooding about the sentimental link between place and memory. Surely there’d have been some misty-eyed reminiscing, maybe I’d have busted out some Bon Iver lyrics.

That didn’t work out.

Monday, the shrapnel bombs at the Boston Marathon tore through the legs and lives of hundreds of people whose stories of triumph gave way to a horror show.

So I thought about the frailty of our lives that even the strongest among us should be cut down so easily by a psychopath with a trace of technical knowledge.

Tuesday, the first of several ricin-laced letters turned up in the mailrooms of Washington.

So I thought about the uncanny parallel to the post-9/11 anthrax scare, that we must be living in some scaled-down, time-compressed replay of September 2001 in which the bad guys are faceless and all the more frightening for it.

Wednesday, a fusillade of afternoon votes in the Senate left us with a dead gun-control bill.

So I thought about the cowardice of our leaders that even the will of 90 percent of the country cannot compel Chuck Grassley and the rest of the Senate’s gun caucus to rise from their submissive kneel before the NRA.  

And then it rained until the streets were impassable and then it rained more.

So I waded home and rolled off my clammy socks; I wondered if it was possible to get trench foot after only a day in wet shoes.

I googled “trench foot.”

And then “North Korea” and “Kermit Gosnell” to keep up with the week’s less time-sensitive atrocities.

I sat down to write my column. I thought about my problems in the context of the week’s news, in the context of everyone else’s problems.

I considered this and weighed that. Pondered and stroked the beard I wished I could grow. A fertilizer plant exploded and leveled half a town in Texas.

I conceded, closed my computer, and slept.

I dreamed I was in the Java House, beset by beards and low whispers.

Pretentiousness nipped at my patience in quips and phrases overheard.

“… I wonder about the Syrian diaspora … their ideological inconsistency is just like … I’m really into Sylvia Pla—”

Then, in burst a shrieking horde of shabbily clothed, caffeine-starved T-Spoons refugees. They poured in from the street; they packed the shop wall-to-wall.

I started toward the door but was swept up in the crowd; I screamed, but I couldn’t make a sound.

I woke, covered in sweat and steeped in anger, and remembered that in the chaos of recent days, I’d neglected to visit my home café in this, the week of her demise.

So I rode my bike to the T-Spoons on Market for the last time, that I should experience once more her lovingly adequate embrace.

I got a cup of coffee; had the $2.19 ready in exact change.

The first time the cashier remembered my name, it freaked me out; I got very self-conscious about my consumption habits and lay low for a few weeks. That particular neurosis of mine improved only a bit over time.

I took a seat and bathed in the shop’s charmingly charmless vibe.

I listened for the familiar 15 songs they played there on a loop. Michael Buble, then Johnny Cash, then Bon Iver, then Norah Jones, then this awful song “Kangaroo Court” by God-knows-who and so on with the intention of driving everyone in the place insane.

I thought about the nasty, purple thick-rimmed mugs that tasted like detergent and the way the Sun came in so beautifully during the daytime; the way the place transformed into a starkly lit warehouse in the nighttime. The watery Americanos.

This was the place where I fell in love with the latte, and, eventually, the place where my brain abruptly started interpreting lattes as “hot bitter milk,” leading me to swear off the drink forever.

It was also where I used to write or read for hours on those worn, crumb-crusted couches; the place where I developed a taste for black coffee that had long since gone cold and sour.

It was the place where I wrote the snarky blog post that won me a job at the DI.

And I was there again. Studying the wobble of the tables and the grain of the concrete floor, recounting in my head the events of this awful week.

Knowing soon it would all be over.


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