This is the first time I’ve sat with a coffee, in public, in however long. Fifteen months?

Sitting out at coffee has been part of my identity for at least twenty years.

It’s the reason I have friends, I have at times not surrendered to depression, I have felt cared for, I have learned my new neighborhood. I’ve learned where I’m welcome, and where I’m not.

Having my coffee places taken away was the biggest change in my pandemic lifestyle. Lugging my books and laptop to a coffee place, that’s been my trick to accomplish work, to set goals, to feel a part of things even when my introversion demands privacy.

I did not know how I would accomplish anything during pandemic.

I have a longtime fear of a home work space. I have to feel nomadic to work. I have to feel my body is free when my mind is pinned down.

My first coffee back, out, alone. I’ve had coffees with friends.

First coffee back out, alone, at a place opened by someone I used to know, with the bagels I have always loved. Now I order oat milk.

The way strangers, bystanders, always impacted my day. I came to appreciate it. During the harshest days of pandemic, a quick exchange with someone, anyone, buoyed me. A wave from an old lady walking on the next block. A “hey” from a guy at the tire shop, who was standing still for just a moment, catching his breath.

So this is what we’ll write about for the rest of our lives.

Last night I sat on a beautiful deck with beautiful cocktails and heard about the work of counting covid deaths. “I’m such a bummer,” said the person who had done this work, and I said, “No. I want to talk about it.”

What else is there to talk about?

It was interesting, I felt some of my classic insecurities sneaking in. Insecurities that haven’t had much to trigger them for the last 15 months. Hm, how much have you traveled overseas? Hm, are you successful? At what? Do I know how to chat with someone about anything? About New York, our mother we’ve abandoned, or about Kansas City, a place I don’t know how I feel about. Can I chat about how I’m moving, how chaotic and disturbing it is, how I still haven’t finished my stupid degree, how I’m broke, how I am unemployed?

Moving and all its physical and emotional tasks took about a week.

I’ve had one full day of no moving activities. I embroidered. I took a bath. I went to an estate sale and realized the person who had died was some alternate version of me. The same books, pictures I liked. Books on writing, Buddhism, spirituality, books I hadn’t heard of, but probably would love.

In the basement I found five rice paper lanterns. My mom used to have a few of those in our den in the 1990s. Were they okay again? I had thought of lanterns on my new porch.

I can’t believe it’s settled I can live there. Partly because nothing seems real. I can’t believe I moved out. I can’t believe I can’t go home there.

I bought the five lanterns, for a dollar apiece, on the hope that I would have the apartment I’ve already signed the lease for. That I will have some kind of life there that will include lanterns.

I know the way it works is that at some point in the big life transition, I feel numb. It doesn’t mean anything. When I moved to New York, I didn’t feel anything but panic and exhaustion for months.

Five paper lanterns from a woman who, like me, studied and painted and put up paintings and had a fireplace.

Here at coffee I met a kid in a stroller who is maybe eight months old. I got him to smile, first, and then he started bouncing with the music here, looking at me as I bounced along.

Image: Canopic jar, ca. 1349 BCE, Metropolitan Museum of Art

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