Café used to be the place to be. Café was the way to embrace
loneliness and to wrap myself around all the dreams and the void that would
take over my body every day. I would go the café and just lose myself in my
work, research, paper, part-time job or simply playing around on Facebook.
Café no more. When all those dreams start to kick in or not one
by one. When you get into the illusion of growing up and living differently
than before. Café no more.
It becomes about planning everything the way you should,
about trying to nurture your relationship. It becomes about being a responsible
citizen, becoming the premium customer at your bank, paying all your bills on
time, going to work on time, coming home like a half corpse, go for dinner with
your fiancé and passing out much too early every night against your will. It
becomes about pushing your real dreams such as working on your novel and
reading all those books you always wanted to read back to the end of your
to-do-list every day, every month, every year. It becomes about once in a while
waking up to this routine and the void and about calming down yourself by
thinking about the amazing things and love that you found in life. You tell
yourself that when one has a nice job, a nice partner, a nice apartment and a
loving family she should not complain. But, you still do and you get mad at
yourself for complaining. You complain about all the wrong things. You complain
about being tired when in reality you are angry with yourself for gradually
retiring yourself from your big dreams that involved creativity, lots of it.
Café no more is a stage in life. In North America, the
concept of the “stage of life” is how many of us define ourselves and try to
justify the things that we presently do and we don’t. It is a funny concept in reality. How much
can “stage” change from one year to another. Maybe a lot. I don’t know. It
gives you a sense of life going forward and you moving on to a better and more fulfilling
When you try to combat temporal depression that attacks you
in the middle of a serious meeting or at a gathering with like-minded friends
and colleagues, you try to think of yourself as the savvy driver of a truck
that is simply parked for years, a driver that walked out of a lifetime dream
and came to help the truck to serve its purpose in life.
You let your mind go, as a like-minded friend and colleague
goes on at a cocktail party in telling you about her achievements in life. You
think of a truck that has been long parked and you as a driver. Looking around,
you worry that all these people around you think the truck is on the road, that
it is moving. You worry that the truck has been parked for too long, that even
the engine of the truck is lost in an illusion of motion, of moving forward.
You are a driver who knows she will find a way inside of
that truck with or without keys and gets it moving, on the road, with music
blasting in the background, and an indefinite destination in mind. Then as the colleague asks you about your work
and life, you catch yourself in a difficult position: “I am engaged. I work at
an international organization. I work on the Middle East North Africa region.”
Struggling to walk back to the truck, you are faced with yet another question: “Nice.
That all sounds exciting. Where are you from?” Worried that the person may go
on asking about your life story, like a robot that has answered one question
much too many times, you put on a fake smile with emotions frozen behind your
thankfully black eyes that don’t convey much anyways, you say “Iran. I am
originally from Iran. But, I have been here for more than a decade.”
Tired and ready to go home, you convince yourself that being
on the road is overrated. You remind yourself that in the past years you have
lived in enough countries and continents to know they don’t solve your problem,
that the void goes on, that the saga with self continues.
Café no more is a stage where you only go to a café when your
routine is disrupted for some reason, an argument with a loved one perhaps. You
go back to a café after months, you look around with tears in your eyes and you
remember all the hours, days, months and years you spent with yourself at
You begin to overhear conversations around you. You can pick
the regular customers from the occasional ones. You can easily pick out the café
no more people from the rest. Those who have no plans to leave any time soon, who
try to make a conversation with you by apologizing for kicking your foot under
the table and their attempt failing with you responding, “No worries. You did
not kick me, you probably kicked the chair”.
Then there are the rest: Those with lots of tattoos who meet
up with their friends and talk about the philosophy of being punk, their punk group’s
mascot and the meaning of their tattoos.
The Afghan immigrant men behind you are talking about everything under the immigration sky starting getting their driver’s license and the road exam all the way to
being single men, eligible and Afghan in DC and looking for a nice girl to meet
and marry possibly. They say all that in a language, a tone, that has the
magical force of awakening the long neglected sense of home and putting a smile
on your face. Their voice arbitrarily reminds you the dry cold of the mountains in the margins of Tehran and you go on thinking of the smell of bonfires at home and the salty taste of grilled corn from childhood. You laugh at yourself for having developed "orientalist" tendencies about your own land. "How do three Afghan men talking about their life here remind you of a bonfire in the North of Iran, and of salty corn?", you ask yourself in a silly tone echoed in your blank thoughts and you move on from the smokey scent and the salty taste of home.
Then, you spot the café no more fellows: Those who ran away
from home for not an hour, but “50 minutes”, to finish a “PowerPoint
presentation” on the weekend for their talk on the following Tuesday. Those who
get a phone call from the wife, have a strangely short and even annoyed
conversation with her, and in one second after the phone call they disappear
back into the café no more stage.
You then look at your watch. It has already been over 30
minutes that you have been at the café. Longer than your café no more stage
recommends. You get a reminder on your Google calendar to go to a holiday party
where you will meet like-minded professionals. You are late. You are always late. It's a battle against you and your Google Calender. Remembering that you forgot your
business cards at the office, you hope to yourself that you meet some relevant
colleagues for work purposes. And, you step out of the café, thinking which of
your two night dresses you ought to wear tonight: the business casual black
dress or the other business casual black dress?
The “café no more” stage
is on full force. The saga goes on.