Kara Gordon

Returnings

A fortnightly letter to the people going at 100 miles an hour. We all have the things that keep us grounded: to-do lists, morning routines, communities, and rituals to keep us sane. But when things get tough, they often fall to the wayside. Here's a reminder to refuel.

The Regulars

Just a little housekeeping, because it's been awhile: thank you all who donated, followed, and shared Comedic Timing! Their Seed & Spark campaign exceeded their goal and they got the green light for production and they start shooting in July. You can continue following along here. Congratulations Paige!

The Regulars

Back in October when I was in St. Louis, one of my best friends and I drove out to my favorite coffee shop across town. I had gone back to St. Louis a couple of times since graduation, but somehow never managed to go back to the place I had parked myself every weekend my junior and senior years. You needed a car, a little time to kill, and an itch to escape the bubble that traps most undergrads. It’s a place for slow weekends, not blurry 48-hour visits, which is how my trips to the Midwest seem to go. But the weekend was too much, too fast, and I needed to both cure my hangover and slow down. So we went to get coffee.

 The founder and owner, Scott Carey, pouring a latte in front of the old chalk sign that was replaced this year.

The founder and owner, Scott Carey, pouring a latte in front of the old chalk sign that was replaced this year.

My college sweetheart found Sump when it opened. The owners knew him, knew me, as regulars. But to them he was Jake and I was His Partner. He was a Regular Regular and I was a Weekend Regular who probably ordered one too many dirty chais in a bare bone coffee shop that, until a year or two ago, didn’t serve pastries or any sort of food fare, only coffee. They only reluctantly had milk.

My Regular Regular coffee shop was (obviously) by the art school on the corner of a busy intersection halfway between my 1-bedroom and the studio. They started making my drink as soon as they saw me. One of the girls always threw in an extra shot for free, and a soft-spoken artist with gorgeous blue eyes always greeted me by name and complimented me every time I wore pink. It took me months to learn his name. Nick. Then I graduated and never saw either of them again.

Recently, my hot chocolate place that I always went to after therapy closed. The same week, the guys who always prepared my lunch at the salad bar quit. It’s oddly distressing, their absence. They don’t know anything about my life but my face and name, what time I tend to come in, and my order. I don’t know much past their names, which barista would give me the perfect ratio of spicy and regular chocolate, and that one of the guys from the salad bar would go straight into a shift at the Starbucks on the other side of the block. But they were an integral part of my week, my day, my rituals that I had built.

Imagine my surprise when I walked into Sump last fall, and there was Nick. Same bearded face and bright blue eyes, just in a different coffee shop. It took me a couple of seconds but I finally remembered his name. It had been three years. He was disappointed—I was hoping you wouldn’t remember—because he had forgotten mine. He knew my order but my name escaped him. Give me the first letter. My name fell out of his mouth as soon as I gave it.

I’ve been thinking lately about the people who we hold at the liminal space in our lives and how intimately our paths are entwined despite the perceived distance. How, in a city like New York, it can be claustrophobic and lonely and comforting and communal all at once. These familiar strangers have somehow become my home. In places that can be excruciatingly lonely—all the more so when you’re in a city packed with people—the faces who know when you leave for work and what you eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner are what hold your day together. They might be on the border of your life, but they contain it in a way coworkers, friends, lovers can’t.

And we’re all these people. We’re coworkers, friends, lovers, but we’re also the people who come into the coffee shop at the same time everyday, the people who always come to the 7:30 yoga class on a Tuesday, the people who keep sitting across from you on the subway. This is not a new or profound notion, just a fact of life. John Koenig’s Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows even encapsulates this in the word sonder. It roughly collapses the French and German: to probe, apart and without to become the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. It’s a feeling that is near impossible to sustain because we are human and we can only handle so much. But it is there, waiting in the background, waiting for you to remember.

Love always,
Kara

 

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