I'm looking through a coffee shop window out into the darkness and a wet, short March snowfall.The snow won't stick. It's not cold enough. But, in the brightness thrown by light poles across the parking lot, the white stuff is beautiful—big flakes that swirl and rain down in a snow globe shaker shower.
The coffee shop is humming with conversations in Spanish and Korean. Ringtones annoy. A baby burbles, counteracting the cellphones. A barista is aggressively squeezing the trigger on a container of kitchen cleaner. There can't be any left in the bottle by the time she's done. Despite the overdose of chemical freshness, I smell coffee brewing, and I know in the wet cold of the evening, I will carry that scent home with me, soaked into the knit loops of my scarf and the fabric of my shirt. I'm fine with that. I love it when I carry the smell of memory with me.
When I lived in Moscow, I loved arriving home after a weekend at the dacha, my clothes infused with wood smoke from the potbelly stove in the corner of the little living room. I would hold up shirts to my nose for days after returning to my apartment, breathing in the sweet, heady remnants of a good adventure. I closed my eyes and could hear a friend playing guitar, doing his best Vysotsky impression, and the sound of laughter from the small deck out back overlooking the river that separated us from the Young Pioneer camp on the other bank. The camp came alive and fell to sleep again every day with a bugle call we heard through the birch and pine trees. We would listen and stoke the fire in our cabin and curl up together in the dying light—a pile of friends disconnected from the chaos of the city just a few kilometers away, but deeply connected together for a moment before the week began again. I wish I had something saturated with that lovely smoke right now.
It's different here. No smoke. Just coffee. Not a bucolic and quiet setting like the dacha at Serebryany Bor. Yet I am with my friend, and that is good.
Traffic hisses on wet pavement outside. A chill rises each time the door opens with people arriving to buy overpriced lattes and Cherry Blossom frappuccinos. There is a red glow outside from the neon signs lining the strip mall. Clearly management wanted something uniform, and nearly every business has red neon signage to lure in customers. There is a large Asian community here, from Korea and China, and the signs remind me of a brief visit to Seoul many years ago, en route to Vladivostok. At night the city was dotted in crimson illumination, with red crosses rising into the darkness above the city's numerous Christian churches. I wonder if the red neon was chosen specifically for our local community, but I never ask. I don't want to appear rude or culturally ignorant. The signs are big and bright. They provide a constant light show, obscuring the stars in the sky with manmade glare.
Before the night is out, I will snag his picture. My hand is shaky, and I am an increasingly awful cellphone photographer. I'll have to take a heap of photos in the hopes of getting one non-blurry needle in my camera haystack. No matter. It will amuse me. The same ten people who like all my Instagram photos will hopefully enjoy froggie in the window. Who could ask for anything more?
My vision is eroding. It's been encroached upon by a flaw in my design that first appeared when I was a teenager. Now it's eating my peripheral vision in nibbles and, sometimes, mouthfuls. I hate it when people walk down hallways at work with me and they are just a smidge too far away for me to keep them in my sight. It makes me feel awkward and uneasy. My vision loss is progressing, and I think of the bites missing as being eaten up by some little Pac-Man in my head. Waka, waka, screw you, buddy!
I take more photos now and draw all the time. Increased practice has not really improved the quality of my efforts, honestly. Doesn't matter. I snap away. I scribble. What I produce is distinctly mine. Not exactly a legacy to leave behind—just stuff I enjoy making and something by which my friends can identify me. "Yeah, that's her. Kinda blurry..."
Life is a blur. I just have to either speed up to see more of it or grow accustomed to life being a hum in my ears as it rushes by, unseen in my periphery.
Best speed it up, sister. Get with the program. Don't let anything rush by. Don't miss out. Advice for us all, really.
10 p.m. Time to go.
They turned the frog light off.
Tomorrow, Scarlett. Yes, tomorrow. After all, tomorrow is another day, and that damn frog isn't going anywhere.
Yes, I looked up "Scarlett O'Hara + frog" on Google.
God bless Google. I knew you wouldn't fail me. ;)