We’re in Portland. A breakfast spot Loren told us about, we navigated here by phone.
Monday morning, Portland. I’m not sure they take debit cards because there’s a handwritten sign about checks out front, but I’ve got the day off and I’m telling myself not to worry.
The special involves kale, seasoned tofu, quinoa, almond gravy, chanterelles. It feels like all the gluten-free vegans of the world have pooled here, in Portland. It’s like some comedy skit.
But the girl standing in line isn’t in a comedy skit; her eyes are darting around and she’s shifting balance between both feet. It seems the people in the cafe have all turned to face her and moved quickly in a geometric pattern, boxing her in by the front counter and the metro steel shelves and the paper Chinese lanterns, swaying softly overhead.
Of course it’s just in her mind, she knows it. She looks over at us and looks back at them and gets her coffee and leaves.
We talk about gun control, about mental illness, the people in our family and friends who need help, who are just like the people you read in the newspaper or could be. We change the subject. The special is great, and so is the coffee, and it keeps coming.
There are cut-outs in the wall divider between our room and the adjacent one, and round mirrors opposite the cut-outs, so it becomes a play on the mind as you look at the wall: the mirrors appear like pass-throughs but they aren’t, and the cut-outs reveal scenes of other people in the other room around tables of their own, having similar conversations with their menus, their coffee.
The music is by a band called Zola Jesus, and I think to show-off to the waitress and try to connect with her, remarking how much it sounds like Siouxsie and the Banshees. That dark, tortured wail that carries out from the kitchen and the kids back there chopping vegetables over the heads of us out here in the dining room, waiting for our checks, checking our mail, glossed-over by the Monday morning gray, outside.
A guy pulls up out front in a green pick-up with a couple crates of chanterelles and I tell them they’re great, just had some.
The girl with the darting eyes is gone around the corner. There’s graffiti and ads of bands playing and a sticker of Kurt Russell’s face out of focus and green, all jammed into the real estate on the back of a No Parking sign. Every available inch is taken with some code that could be prophesy or profanity.
There are faces in the leaves beneath the overhang and voices coming from birds, from cars, from the cracks in the windows and TVs in the rental units, upstairs. It’s Monday in Portland, and we could be anywhere.