The man who just sat next to me in the cafe where I’m working stinks.
He stinks of a body and clothing that have not been washed in many days. He is busy studying the two tattered books he took from his backpack and slapped down onto the scarred orange table. Even when he takes a break to go outside, the scent remains. Having no idea what his story is, I just feel happy he can afford a cup of coffee and a place to be.
We’re two people who don’t have regular jobs to go to in the afternoon. I’m working –answering emails, scheduling, and writing– and he is doing whatever his work is as he mutters to himself and scribbles quickly in between the lines of one of the books, underlining words as he goes.
I’ve written before on the importance of brushing elbows and air space with all sorts of people, and on how we never know, when we meet someone, what exactly their life is like.
There’s nothing profound I want to say today. It just felt important to mark this moment, and my cup of tea, and the other people with laptops or books, eating sandwiches, or talking. Perhaps the man next to me, with his scent I find familiar yet unpleasant, has a bed inside, and a job and family. And perhaps he doesn’t. Whatever his story is, it’s important that we both have a place to be today, just like everyone else in this cafe.
So once again, I’m making friends with my discomfort, because until we live in an equitable, post-scarcity world, making friends with discomfort is the only way through to justice that I can see.*
Mother Jones enjoined us to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” Sometimes that means ourselves.
EDIT: *Anyone who follows my work knows that I’m speaking of first facing our discomfort and then working toward justice via having the hard conversation, or marching, or writing, or …
Thanks to all my Patreon supporters. I’m writing a lot more these days, because of you. This is an “extra” essay for December, written as I was working on this month’s short story and other, longer form essay.