It’s a quarter to 7, PM, which is post meridian, which means after noon. It’s an excruciatingly beautiful June day in northern Seattle. Not that Seattle is so vast that I need to differentiate different parts of it to assign the weather appropriately. It’s excruciatingly beautiful all over the god damned place. I’m walking to Starbucks.

Which is not true, but more interesting that what I was actually doing at that time: falling asleep as my wife sang a song to our son, about an alligator eating monkeys out of a tree, one by one. First there were five of the little bastards, teasing Mr. Alligator, so he snuck up and snatched one. Then there were four, but the monkeys didn’t seem to notice, and kept right on hassling the guy. So he snatched another. I was actually fighting sleep because I wanted to know how it ended. Would the last one figure it out, maybe repent his ways?

Nah, he got et too. Idiot.

But that’s boring, so instead, I’m walking to Starbucks. It’s warm outside, all the trees are green, and the sky is that deep blue color you get when you give up using four-letter monosyllabic words for colors and look for something fancy and poetic and crap. Like “azure” or “cobalt.”

We like our coffee here in Seattle, mostly because it’s overcast all the time and we need the caffeine to fight off the drearies. People who don’t drink coffee either take heroin or make music, or if it’s the early 90s, they do both. But today the only heroin a person could think of is heroine, with an e, like Wonder Woman, because the sky is the color of Linda Carter’s eyes. There you go.

Which begs the question: why am I walking to Starbucks at 7 PM on a gorgeous day? I dunno. On the one hand, I’m not; I’m mostly asleep on the floor in my kids room as my wife tries to get him to sit still while she changes his diaper. But there would have to be a reason, even if I’m not really walking to Starbucks. Go ahead, find Wonder Woman, have her throw that lasso around me, make me tell the truth. I’d love to know myself.

I mean, on the one hand, I’ve been dipping my toes into philosophy via books and podcasts and browsing Wikipedia. That can get a man down, whether he’s literally down on the floor in his son’s bedroom listening to his wife fight a sleep sack onto the little rascal, or merely spiritually down due to the hop-skip-jump journey he just took from Plato to Descartes to Camus to The Matrix. So there you go. Again. Even the deep warmth of Linda Carter’s deep blue eyes are nothing against a single toe frozen in the ice-cold waters of existential angst.

But on the other hand, there’s this Mindfulness thing that’s been going around. An antidote to angst. Or, an antidote to Angst’s little brother Anxiety, who is way more annoying if you ask me. And to be sure, if I’m lying on the floor of my son’s bedroom as my wife rocks him in the glider and sings Twinkle Twinkle Little Star (his favorite song) five times in a row, I can hardly consider myself “mindful” if I’m imagining myself walking to Starbucks underneath skies so blue it’s like everything else’s not-blueness just contributes to how blue it is. Maybe, though, I’m so immersed in this imaginary walk I’m mindful of the walk.

Afterall, I’m not feeling any anxiety, thinking about the sky, the press of the cement through my shoes, the traffic tootling by, the siren call of a venti mocha. I am in THAT moment. Sort of. And it’s all in MY head, see. My wife puts our son in his crib with his lovey and a stuffed rhinoceros, and I adjust my face just a bit to move out of my drool spot, and she turns on the white-noisemaker and turns off the light, and there are no shadows on the cave wall in my head, there are no demons messing with my five senses. I am really good at imagining things. I’ve got the Matrix right there inside my noggin.

My son starts to snore. I mean, I get to a crosswalk. I dutifully wait for the light, and when the little white man appears, I get up off the floor. Starbucks is just there, but it’s kind of hard to see in the dark. I am also hard to see in the dark, and a car totally ignore the red light. Probably some jerk on his cell phone. Or maybe the sky is too blue for red to even exist anymore. Camus decided that there’s no purpose to anything, so you might as well just do what you’re good at. I smile at my boy. I’m pretty good at that.

The car is a 1957 Facel Vega, of course, and it plows through me like the fifth dad pun in a string of a dozen. I never make it to Starbucks, but I do make it out of my son’s room. I walk downstairs, find my shoes. There where I took them off. It’s nice when things work out like that.

Donut Day

It’s 6 pm or maybe closer to 7 on a Friday, in the beginning of June, in Seattle, the year 2017, only a day after whatisface announced that he was ready to really destroy the earth. Really destroy it this time. I’m standing in line at Krispy Kreme. Every single teenage girl in Seattle is here. Every. Single. One.

They’re just being people, for the most part. They’re not being geese. They’re not being stereotypes. I wouldn’t even have noticed if I hadn’t noticed. Me, I’m here because I promised someone donuts as a kind of mea culpa. My wife has shanghai’d the gesture to get some donuts for herself and her parents as well. Fair enough. I’d do the same. I really like donuts.

And so does every single teenage girl in Seattle, apparently. No, really, there are a lot of them here. This is how many of them there are: if there were one more, it would be one less than too much. And one less of too much creates anxiety. Almost like, go ahead, squeeze one more in, let’s have that tipping point, let the universe collapse on itself here at the Krispy Kreme on 125th and Aurora under the weight of every single teenage girl.

That’s angst. But we’re still one away from that. The prepunultimate teenage girl is maybe that one by the door, with the blonde hair, blue eyes, braces, shirt, shorts, shoes, cell phone, donut-hungry grin. She represents pre-angst. Let’s call it prangst.

I am, me, hungry for prangst. I have been noticing a lot of things lately that are semi-connected which add up to a kind of frisson. I listened to a podcast today about Camus, and absurdism, which drifted into a discussion of Mindfulness. I have a friend who has been encouraging to me to try mindfulness, by coincidence. I have anxiety. But I value it because it makes me hypervigilant, which I take pride in. If I give up my anxiety entirely, I’ll lose my identity. But it’s making me miserable. I need to be almost anxious. Prangst.

And that’s where the frisson comes in. I am not worried, yet, that the number of teenage girls in here will reach a critical mass, yet. But I am maybe worried that I’ll be worried about it if one more comes in. And, here’s the thing, I’m being very mindful of my worries. I am in the moment. I am surrounded by almost but not quite nearly too many teenage girls.

At no point whatsoever do I wonder, at all, WHY there are so many freakin’ teenage girls here.

Somehow, the lines moves, and I’m in front of the counter. I look back– the line is exactly as long as it was when I came in. For every teenage girl that left, a new one has come. I don’t know you, whoever you are, reading this. I don’t know what teenage girls symbolize for you. And I don’t want to guess, and I refuse to worry about what you think I must mean by saying I don’t want to guess. I’m just saying that these teenage girls are not a mass of individuals, but are collective consciousness, and they are timing their exits and entries with mathematical precision. I’d thank one of them if I thought she could speak for all of them. But of course she can’t.

The guy behind the counter asks me what I’d like to have. He is utterly oblivious to how many teenage girls are in here. That’s either because he’s not hypervigilant like me, or he’s used to it. Probably, this precise number of teenage girls has been here all day. Every day. Teenage girls, it turns out, existentially, are defined by how there are always the exact same number of them in the universe, and this Krispy Kreme on 125th and Aurora is a splinter of the hologram that reflects that entire universe.

I tell the guy I want three of those and two of those and one of those and one of those and two of those. He asks me if I want a free donut.

The question is so straightforward, so simple. “Do you want a free donut?” In any other context I would assume it’s a rhetorical question. I mean, the answer is always yes. Always. Even after I’ve chose nine other donuts that I clearly have every intention of paying for, the answer is yes. And so, despite myself, I say yes. It’s automatic. And he asks me which one I want. He doesn’t mean one of the ones in the box he’s building for me. He means a tenth donut.

I glance around. The line is now one teenage girl longer than it was before. I start to sweat. I need to leave. I tell him I’ll have one of the hot ones. He tries to hand it to me, I point at the box. I glance back at the door. There’s a teenage girl standing outside of it, dark hair, dark eyes, jeans with holes on the knees, baggy sweathshirt. She’s not coming inside yet, she just talking on her cell phone. A baggy sweatshirt in Seattle on absolutely gorgeous day, a warm sunny day. We’re all going to die.

The guy scoots over to the registers and I follow suit. You know those new chip-card readers? If you have a credit card with one of those chips on it, what you do is you try to slide it like you used to do with your older credit cards, and then the machine tells you, no, stupid, insert the chip part and wait. Well, this time I don’t fuck it up. I insert. The machine almost sighs. Like, finally. For myself, I am willfully not using my peripheral vision to see if that final teenage girl has come in yet. Because my peripheral vision has already told me that  none of them have left.

The guy hands me my receipt. I try to grab it but I’ve already got my box of nine donuts plus one free one in my hands. I can’t use a number higher than nine anymore, because that’s one too many and I don’t want the impending teenage girl singularity and the donut singularity to fight over which one will collapse the universe and which one is just going to be along for the ride. I don’t even remember the guy handing me the box in the first place.
It occurs to me that whoever wins, the donuts or the teenage girls, I better call “shotgun” because you don’t want to be in the backseat when the universe ends.

But it doesn’t end, and I make it outside. I get in my car and sit there, looking at the teenage girls swarming in the door, out the door. I could say what it’s like, but I’ve already said I don’t know you, don’t know what you think of when you read the words “teenage girls.” So I can’t say what it’s like.

I start the car. The radio blares. The DJ is blathering about something, and doing an excellent job of it. Earning that daily bread. He says that I shouldn’t forget that today is Free Donut Day. I can here the capital letters in his voice.

Well, shit.