Ladybeetle sits across from me in a green sweater, curls of hair draped over her shoulders and a pained expression on her face as she stares into the foaming void of her macha tea.
“You post so much more than me,” says she.
“I have a lot of free time,” I reply through the lid of my coffee, “I was writing a lot before this too, a couple thousand words per day. Transient Talk is more of a journal than anything.”
“You get a lot of likes too.”
“On the sex one?”
“Just all of them.”
Ladybeetle takes up her own space; she is a lot like me in that way, like water. The longer she sits, the more she spreads out into her environment. Right now, she has one leg hiked up on the wall beside us and the other stretched out all the way under the table. She rolls her foot back and forth on the heel of her boot. Her affects litter the floor and the table. The majority of our time is spent talking about things we would like to write and our frustration with getting our sites off the ground .
She looks up from her laptop, “I want to write about how married couples can still relate to single people. Married people are just single people who are married,” she says.
“I don’t think very many people get that.”
She nods and forces down another throat of tea, “I still need attention outside of my husband, you know?” She holds up both hands, palms up, “I need attention from friends and stuff. Now that I’m married, I think I need time with friends more than ever. People just don’t understand that you are the same person even after you are married.” She pauses, “I also want to write about how greedy people are during the holidays.”
I don’t have a ton of friends. I don’t want a ton of friends, but the acquaintances whom I have chosen to surround myself with are paragons of kindness and intrigue. I love them dearly, Ladybeetle included. We were friends from highschool who drifted apart when the midsummer leisure of our youth faded into storms of bills and college and relationships. It’s what happens. It also happens that the universe is a clock with guts of orbital interaction. We orbited one another through friends of friends and then just friends; now, we sit together at a coffee shop, one of us enjoying our drink significantly more than the other.
“It’s really discouraging putting something out there that you care about, and when it doesn’t get attention, you feel like no body else cares about that thing. It can be lonely, but I actively try to just write for myself. I realized a while back how much you are setting yourself up for disappointment if you put a lot of effort into something solely for affirmation,” I tell her.
“Yeah, I shouldn’t care so much about what people thing about.”
I chew on that thought for a beat, “I don’t think we can help it. We are all just trying to make connections all the time. It can definitely spiral out of control though.”
We work in silence for a little bit. Keys click under the din of whirring milk steamers and the auctioneer-like calls of the baristas.
Mocha latte for Brad?
I got a mocha latte for Brad!
MOCHA LATTE FOR BRADLEY!
Friends are a newer development for me in a way. I was isolated in my marriage for years, and everything that Ladybeetle says hits home. In a way, I’m envious that she notices these relational nuances so effortlessly, nuances that took me years of abuse and fear to finally come to terms with.
“You have a good head on your shoulders,” she pouts.
“You do too.”
“No, I mean, I wish I had your brain.”
She doesn’t realize the strange curse she is wishing upon herself. I forgive her.
My phone buzzes on the table. “When does moving start?” it asks, and I flip it upside down.
Ladybeetle is about halfway done with her drink which she has described as “like fresh cut grass juice and sugar.” In our circle of friends she is the youngest, but she is remarkably observant and careful about how her opinions are worded. She is a person who values experiences and the process of being in the unknown for a bit once she is out of it. She tells me that posting is hard for her, because she wants to have something more concrete to say about the issues that matter to her, but much like myself, she seems prone to masochistic levels of overthinking.
At 10:30, I leave her with a hug and a, “You got this. You have something to say, and we all want to hear it.” I head back to my Jeep and feel a trickle of loneliness drip down my brain almost immediately.
On the drive home, I listen to “Michigan” by The Milk Carton Kids and “Mine” by Bazzi. Their contrast is jarring, and by the time I am pulling into my driveway, the tempered reverberant plucks of “Despicable” by Grandson begin. I turn off the radio and listen to the silence for a measure.
It fills me up.