It seems to me that life often arranges itself according to themes, to which independent consciousness (free will, I suppose) is subservient. Themes and symbols become the Hobbes’ Leviathan of our consciousness; unable to effectively work together, the many voices in our heads appoint a supreme leader in the form of an archetypical character, symbol, or theme through which they function. Our free will creates an overarching idea of self, and then becomes a willing slave to it. Our minds and bodies become the puppet through which roles manifest and play out – a host, as you will, for a parasitic role that feeds on us throughout our lives.
When I moved to Austin, I saw it as a moment of change not just in location, but in theme. The act of moving was me asserting my sovereign will over my Leviathan and forcing it to become something else. In Los Angeles, Myself was the concept of Almost. I was a tragedy of stalemate. I saw myself swimming in the thick Jell-O of desire and interpersonal unfulfillment. Friends or companions that could’ve been but weren’t occupied my mind constantly. Passing strangers (or rather missed connections that were never actually missed because they were never actually connections) became nearly an obsession as I descended into a spiral of self-inflicted hopeless loneliness (which is silly, because I had many very good friends). Deep intimacy to me was reduced to a mere exchange of glances, real or imagined. It was rather pathetic, almost embarrassing: a whiny woe-is-me character without the excuses. But it was my role, and I had to be loyal to it.
When I came to Austin, I left all my old symbols and scripts behind. Myself became about independence and a subdued enjoyment of freedom – freedom from the stresses of human interaction, which plagued me constantly in Los Angeles. I was free from desire – free from the gelatinous existence of non-action, the purgatory of acquaintanceship, the doom of the What-Coulda-Beens. I went from Jeff the Emo to Jeff the Hermit. From Jeff the Needy to Jeff the Casual Observer. Jeff the Romantic (19th century idea, not Hallmark crap) to Jeff the Scholar. The transformation was seamless.
…until now. It’s almost a cliche…
I walked for the first time into a certain coffee shop recommended to me. A young woman wearing black leather boots with a black cardigan sweater and a rosy face was in line in front of me. She took her order: Caffe Americano. Then she turned around and asked me what I was planning on ordering: Double-Shot Cappuccino. She ordered my drink too and handed the cashier a wad of cash.
I’m shocked: “Wow, thank you! What a pleasant surprise!”
She shrugs: “Don’t worry about it. It’s my pleasure.”
“I’m not used to unexpected kindness from strangers like that.”
“I don’t think any of us are.”
Once ready, we grabbed our beverages.
I asked: “Are you drinking that here?”
She responds: “Nope.”
And she was gone. Out the door she went. And suddenly, my old themes are back.
The cappuccino was delicious, by the way.