It’s afternoon on the Avenues. Outside Trouble Coffee, a bearded young man passes the window in moccasin slippers. His navy-blue robe is unbelted over a clean white undershirt and drawstring pants. He guides a suitcase past Golden Gate Indian Food and Pizza, and as he rounds a corner, the wind pulls his robe hem back toward the beach.
I was all up in the Kon Mari thing last year, but these are the questions I ask myself now about stuff:
• Would I buy this again today?
• If I threw this away, would I need to spend money I don’t have right now to replace it with something better?
For me, those are better decluttering questions than “Does this spark joy?” Because if you’re not going through a joyful period, but you’re feeling industrious, you can find yourself in an echoey room with no couch. I may not feel joyful about my couch, but I need to sit down, and I don’t have a spare thousand dollars in my account.
Yes. I’ll sometimes buy subpar things because I need them. Then I just tell myself “Well, if I find the perfect, most beautiful tablespoon measures later, ones that make me feel like dancing in the rain, and I can afford them, I’ll get those and give these to someone else. But tonight I am baking cookies.”
I don’t need less stuff to be happy. I just maybe need to mop more.
In my recently gentrified neighborhood, a young, bearded white guy blocks the path. His stance is wide, his feet planted, phone affixed to his ear. He folds his arms.
At his back a blind black man approaches, tapping his cane. Hearing the other man’s voice, he pauses uncertainly, tries one direction, then the next, and finally inches around him.
The white guy never notices.
Me: Frazzled Mom, carrying a jumble of bags, a kid and baby in tow, buckling the carseat, folding the stroller into the trunk, passing out snacks. You: Eager Brunette, honking ardently as encouragement to leave my parking space at a pace better suited to your schedule.
We made long, meaningful eye contact while I climbed in my seat and loaded a map, again as I queued up a podcast, and several times as I answered some personal email, then drummed my fingers absentmindedly on the steering wheel. Then, so suddenly, you were gone.
Let’s grab drinks, restless stranger. I’d love to hear how the rest of your day went.
Parking lot dandelions street art by Roadsworth.
Scenario: Affluent neighborhood.
Characters: Four ladies having champagne brunch at the next table.
-Before you move in, at least have the engagement talk. At least make sure it’s moving in that direction.
-Yeah, or like keep your apartment for a few months. Have an escape hatch.
-Like the time I fell out of that limo?
-She’s crazy. Like really crazy. Certifiable.
-…This is your friend?
-I love her, but she’s crazy.
-We should go over. She called the other day to see if we wanted to come over for wine. She’s desperate to get together.
-She’s always desperate for vino.
Middle-aged man in the tiny coffee shop aisle, black V-neck sweater, business casual pants. He orders a latte, and flirts with the barista.
As they chat, he mimes a dramatic full-body golf swing. At first, I think the motion is a sarcastic gesture, something in reference to their conversation. But he lingers, and in moments where she busies herself with coffee and other customers, he waits to see if she’ll return her attention to him.
When she does not, he tees up for another private round of counter-side golf. Two swings, three, a pause to glance around casually, then four. I step around him to get at the milk.