Tea Break Read
A serialised short story
By Allan Hunter
This week was spring Break so we all went home, or, if you’re a senior you went to Cancun or someplace to brag about for the last remaining part of the semester before graduating to the big scary world. I don’t think the world’s big or scary, but then I’ve probably seen more of it than most people in their sheltered lives. Lots of sheltered lives here. Except some aren’t. Take Jessica, for example. I took one look at her and figured she was a white picket fence girl from the white-bread burbs. Turns out she’s from all over, because her dad was in the service. She was born in Okinawa, of all places. She spoke Japanese (sort of) when she was a little kid, but she’s forgotten it all now, of course. How cool is that?
It’d be nice if Jessica was here but she’s from somewhere in New Jersey and so I’m stuck here. We have the phone and we can text, though. I got my old job back at the coffee shop – they’re really good about that and let me come in for the vacations, too – and it felt like I’d never left. When I appear it means the regular staff can take some vacation days so they kind of like that I appear in their lives. A couple of them, waitresses or counter staff like me, went to college too, and then wound up back at the coffee shop anyway. There’s not much employment around here and they didn’t want to leave family – and then a couple of them had kids and suddenly, there they are full-time, and not a lot of chance for promotion. It’s not like this is a big chain. We’ve got exactly three shops, all local. The furthest one is 15 minutes away. This one, the one I’ve been at since high school, is pretty close. I can walk or my mom gives me a ride if it’s raining. It’s decent work, no late hours, and the money’s a help. I get tips, too. Plus it’s not a job that requires much thought, so we put on the music we like and sort of swim through the day.
I don’t drink coffee much. It makes me too jittery.
So I get to thinking about that class again. It’s like it keeps popping into my head. And sometimes I think about the customers, too, and I wonder what they’d draw if they had to do that Jabberwock exercise or one of the others.
At night I watch movies and talk with my friends. Mostly online, but I like the phone, too.
Actually, that’s not all true. I’ve become a bit of a stalker. Yup, Malcolm’s the victim. It’s not like I’m hanging around his back garden with a telephoto lens or anything. But I did look him up online. And there’s this thing he talks about which has to do with belief systems. He says that what we believe shapes what our reality becomes, (fair enough. I get that.) But then he proposes other things. I wrote this down from one of his books, in the introduction:
“I keep exploring these ideas since they run counter to everything we take as “normal” — and yet some of those ancient beliefs powered successful civilizations for far longer than our present, post-reformation belief system.
“How would our world be if we shifted away from “me” and “us” and “success” and such constructs? How would life be if we placed peace and sustainability first? What would happen if we focused on handing over the planet to our children and grandchildren in better condition than we found it? And better does not necessarily mean more concrete or more billionaires.
“One of the sacred symbols of the Eleusian religions seems to have been the pine cone. The Vatican has a huge stone example, presumably lifted and dragged from one of the temples of the major religion it replaced. A huge stone pine cone. In the days of horses and carts it would have been a major proceeding to transport this, so we can be sure the Vatican thought it was important. Think of it: a pine cone is a protective structure for seeds; one that opens and closes in response to weather; one that is linked to an evergreen; one that decays to provide rooting for the seeds. What a powerful and compact symbol that is of caring for the next generation, linking us to mortality and immortality.
“It seems to be saying – we are vessels for the generations that will follow.
“Anything we do must be in service to that.”
I copied it all down so I could think about it a bit more. It all sounds a bit hippy-ish at first, but then I started thinking about it and it began to blow my mind. Or more like it gently lifted the top off my head and I felt everything inside begin to expand and breathe again.
So then, life’s not about me getting a good safe job with a pension (like my Babci says it was for so many people in her time). It’s not about working to save up for vacation once a year, and getting the kids better gifts at Christmas.
It’s about something else entirely. And it’s not just that idea of “service” or giving back or anything they tell you in civics.
Just had a phone call from GooGoo. Such a drama queen (drama king?). He went on and on about how he was disrespected and I felt like saying to him, dude, I was nearly raped at a party. Don’t you think I feel disrespected? Don’t you think I see disrespect in every male’s face most of the time? Don’t you think I see it and feel it in every crappy comment I get in the caf? It was like I didn’t really pay much attention to it before, but now I’m really sensitive to it, because I know that some of it’s just talk and some of it is them, some of them, wanting to rape me, to humiliate me, to crush the spirit out of me.
I didn’t tell him that. I just listened.
So the idea I had after reading that section of Malcolm’s book just got a bit lost.
He is a full professor of Literature at Curry College, a counselor, and his doctoral degree in literature is from Oxford University. British by birth, he traveled extensively in Europe, India, Africa, and India before settling in Boston, Massachusetts.
Three of his books seek to show readers how to use writing as a therapeutic and life-enhancing tool. They are all based in workshops he has taught for over thirty years (The Sanity Manual, Life Passages, and Write Your Memoir). In each case the emphasis is on using writing and story to reach a place a deeper understanding and peace. His other books have explored the way six specific archetypes recur in the 3000 years of the western world’s great literature; Stories We Need to Know, The Six Archetypes of Love, and Princes, Frogs and Ugly Sisters: The Grimm Brothers’ Healing Tales. He concludes that these archetypes are ways for us to contact the deep structures of the psyche.
His tenth book, The Path of Synchronicity, asks us to consider what it is the universe seems to nudge us to do, rather than what we think will make us famous or wealthy. As such times we move into the flow of synchronicity.
He followed this with Spiritual Hunger in which he asks us to consider how we can feed our inner need for relevance in a mass culture, and how we can choose healthy possibilities rather than those sold to us by large corporations.
His most recent work is Gratitude and Beyond – an exploration of how gratitude is just the beginning to the journey of self-discovery. Following a brush with death I describe how I learned, the hard way, lessons I needed to know so that I could live more harmoniously in the world.