The French Press

By Geoffrey Jones

It never snows in Montrose… Except
Today it did… The Rothko Chapel and the
Menil look odd when covered in white…
The magnolias have been duped… And
The azaleas too… The peek out timidly
From under the minor dusting… It isn’t
Spring quite yet… Flurries, like scattered
Thoughts, are deceitful and confusing…
It’s hard to make sense of it all…

I hate the cold… It’s why I left Jersey…

A gray-haired woman in a Prada cap slips
On some ice as she leaves the Rothko and
Grabs my shoulder to break the fall…

“I’m terribly sorry”, she says.

I walk away with a dismissive wave of the
hand.

“Don’t you turn your back on me”, she
barks. “I’m a real person you know.”

“I can see that”, I reply. “I accept your
apology if that’s what you want.”

“Alright then,” she says triumphantly
while pumping her fist in the air.

I escape her stare gladly…

I remind myself to avoid the Rothko
At all costs… Strange people hang out
There… A minute or two in the chapel
Can lead a person to dark thoughts and
Dire impulses…

No one is at work today… It’s funny how
An inch and a half of snow and a few
Patches of ice can thrust this city of eight
Million people into turmoil… How ironic
That most of them fled here from the
North… In order to escape the snow…

I brave the cold and head for the French
Press for warmth and a cup of coffee… It’s
Mid-morning and this is where I start my
Day…

There’s a man sitting at a four-top sipping
A cup while staring into space… There’s a
Distant look in his eye as if he’s seeing into
The future… Or reliving the past… It’s clear
To me that he’s not of this moment… I
Wonder what he’s thinking… He runs his
Hands absently-mindedly through a silver
Mane of wavy hair… A turtleneck barely
Hides his unshaven chin… He reminds me
Of my father… My father was a pretty smart
Cookie… He’s gone now… But I think about
Him often… And time and time again…

I take up residence in my favorite booth…
I like sitting with my back to the wall…
The latest edition of Le Monde is neatly
Folded on the table… It does me no good…
I don’t speak French… A mini-drama is
Being played out between a waitress
Named Lucille and the man with the
Turtleneck sweater… The man points to
His cup impatiently without saying a word…
Without respect or regard…

You can tell Lucille is pissed as she brings
The man a refill… She heads for my booth
With an attitude… All sarcasm and snark…
I mind my manners… Lucille is not to be
Trifled with… I made that mistake once…
But never again… I order a croissant and a
Cup of coffee… She turns tail and heads for
The kitchen…

I glance at the clock on the tapestried
Wall… It’s some garish looking antique…
All porcelain and gold… The clock chimes
The three-quarter hour… It’s a funny thing
About time… You can dress it up… But it
Can’t be redeemed, recovered, or relived…
You can’t stop it… You can’t buy it… All
You can do is use it… Wisely or not…

And I can’t believe what we have become…
Wasted time and all…

Conspiracy theories are everywhere… But
They seldom stick… Everyone knows that
Lennon killed Elvis… Or that leap years
And vaccines… And voting machines… Are
Part of a communist plot… C’mon… Really…

But who the hell knows for sure in this
Day and age… Where people buy into
Anything in desperate search for something
That looks and smells like the truth… Where
Compromise is mistaken for weakness…
And nothing good ever happens at all…

And I’ve smoked enough dope and drunk
Myself into oblivion over the years… And
I lost my love of baseball on the day I lost
My virginity to a girl from Lodi… And
Everyone knows that virginity and baseball
Are one in the same… All innocence and
Such… And now I’m old… And I’ve come
To love baseball again…

And I may have missed some things along
The way… But I have no regrets… Fare thee
Well to close calls and yesteryear… At the
Moment I’ll be thankful for a cup of coffee
And a croissant… If Lucille ever returns from
The kitchen…

I watch people come and go in the cold
Through a bay window that overlooks a
Chinese garden that struggles to survive in
The ice and snow… And there are people
And places I remember…

And there are the friends you have hung
Onto for decades… And the friends you
Have had to let go… But it’s all part of the
Journey… As we are left to solve for a more
Refined way of dealing with people who
Have nowhere else to be… But remember
Hungry people will not behave well… As
Politicians slither around in dark crevices
To avoid the light of day…

Where the hell is Lucille…

Once I had dreams… Like dining with
Audrey Hepburn… I married her double
Instead… This man’s grasp was equal to
His reach… You have to aspire to do
Great things…

And then we all move on to the next
Dimension… And sooner or later ambition
Dies along the way… But it won’t be for
Lack of trying if you’re living right… But
You have to decide if you’re part of an
Orchestra or a teen in a garage band…
There’s nothing wrong with either… But
You have to stand up and declare…

And then there are the bitter ones who
Blame everyone but themselves for their
Own mistakes and misfortune… Like
Thomas, they doubt…

They bitch and moan…

“If God exists, he hasn’t helped me lately…”

They demand an answer…

“And if he doesn’t exist, does anything matter
anymore…”
God is not amused…

The man with the turtleneck rises up from
The four top and slides his chair beneath the
Table like a proper gentleman… He leaves
A handful of loose change for a tip…

Lucille will not be pleased…

He slips on the way out the door… Karma… It
Seems fair to me… You reap what you sow…
He struggles to get back on his feet and then
Brushes himself off while sheepishly scanning
The room for witnesses… No one seems to
Have noticed… Or no one seems to care… He
Makes a clean getaway and disappears onto
The boulevard…

I’m in no rush to leave… It’s cold outside and I’m
Hungry… The French Press is warm and I belong
Here… The clock strikes the top of the hour… I’m
Getting restless but there’s nowhere I need to
Be… People rushing everywhere… Always off
To somewhere… It’s tragic what they miss…

And to be where you are at this moment in time
Should be all that you ever need…

Lucille returns…

I sip my coffee…

As the last snowflake falls on Montrose…

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