Cold Coffee

This is a prose poem I wrote just over a year ago. It’s been fairly popular with the poetry group I frequent as often as I can. I can’t remember what my mentality was when I wrote it; I just remember I was working at the comic shop when I started it. I wrote it by hand first then redrafted it a couple of times on my word processor. I have a strange fascination with diners and I did much of the redrafting at the Denny’s around the corner from my house. I think there’s a sort of divide in people in that regard. There’s diner/cafe people and there are bar/club people. I enjoy both kinds of establishments but I definitely spend more time in diners and cafes, especially late at night.

You fidget a little on your vinyl seat

Your sweat becomes an adhesive

But the sweat tells you something else

You’ve been sitting here for a long time

You look up at the neon lit clock over the open kitchen

The seconds tick… tick… tick… and tick closer to 4a.m.

You wrap your hands around the mug that’s in front of you

It’s ice cold against your already shaking fingers

The waitress walks by and asks if you want if you want a warm up

She holds up the full pot of coffee and smiles

You look down and your mug is still full

You stretch out your fingers, smile, shake your head, and mouth a quiet, polite “no, thank you.”

The waitress raises a curious eyebrow

As she saunters through the almost deserted restaurant

She must have been serving you all night

And the same coffee has sat in front of you for what must be hours already

You don’t know how many

You don’t remember when you arrived

You don’t remember how you got there, but you probably walked

You just remember the vinyl sticking to you

You remember staring at the clock

And the waitress’ curious stare

A menu sits at arm’s length away

You wonder if the waitress expects you to order something more

If the overnight cooks are poised and ready for action any minute now

But nothing has been staying down lately

Even when you try to bring that cold mug to your lips

Your stomach curdles, and twists, and moans in agony

To the thought of taking anything into it

You don’t eat; you function on nothing and leave your brain in neutral gear

I’m not sure if you can actually call this functioning

Even less possible than eating is sleeping

God, it’s been days, hasn’t it?

Or weeks? Maybe it’s been weeks?

Time has completely stopped making any sense

Even that neon clock which hangs over the open kitchen

Seems to tick forward and back, and then forward and then back again

All the different hands now have their own wills and do what they wish

You hear a gentle voice from behind

It’s the waitress again; the clock tells you it’s half past 4 now

She must be bored though, dealing with all this emptiness

Why does your emptiness hold your attention with an iron grip?

The waitress seems genuinely concerned about you

But, is she attempting conversation out of real interest?

Or are her actions dictated by her boredom once again?

You reassure her that you’re fine

Just thinking, that’s all

You don’t totally lie to her

You were thinking this whole time

You’re thinking about everything you’ve worked towards

All your achievements and your completed goals

And yet, it feels like all that you really have

Is this cup of cold coffee

What have you worked towards, really?

Mediocrity? Your parents’ goals?

What your peers and what you loosely call your community expects of you?

Are you living the way you want to live?

Are you portraying some character that others have projected onto you?

Or just some character you want to emulate?

You tried so hard to please everyone else

You forgot that this is your life to live

You wonder if the cup of cold coffee

Could put on a facade, what it would look like

Would it pretend to give warmth again?

Would it pretend not to contort your stomach?

Would it try to be a different colour?

It can’t though.

It never could.

It will always be a cup of cold, black, coffee in a white mug held by your hands

If the coffee can never really change

Or pretend to be something that it never really was

Why is it so easy for humans

To wear so many different masks

And play so many different characters?

You pull out a five dollar bill from your pocket

And you hand it to the waitress

You smile and thank her for her time

She asks if you want the change

But you tell her that the rest is for her

Probably will be the only tip she’ll see all night

You shift to the end of your booth

And push yourself against the table to stable yourself as you stand

Your hands are in your pocket

As you step outside of the diner

And into the morning rain

It’s pouring outside but the sun it peeking over the horizon

You realize it must be summer

This season has crept up on you

You lean against the outside wall of the diner

Just under and overhang and watch the rain drops fall

Hit the concrete, and spread all around

You pop a cigarette into your mouth

And exhale hard thinking about your walk home

You pull out a book of matches, pull a match out, and light it

As you bring the fire closer to your mouth

You think about how this won’t be the last match that you light

As you hope that everything about you

All of your false achievements and feigned lifestyles

Will disintegrate into flames and smoke

And you can start over again

For real this time.

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2 thoughts on “Cold Coffee

  1. J. says:

    Wow love it !!! thanks for sharing

  2. This is totally awesome!

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