Coffee Shop Worries by Jasmine Szabo

I sank into a wooden coffee shop chair going soft with age. The music was a soft hum that blended into the sounds of pencil tapping, laughing friends, and exhausted concentration. The bitter taste of hot coffee was a welcomed gift to my senses. I’d hoped, incorrectly, that coffee would clear my mind. The trip to the coffee shop had only made the worry tangling like a barbed net around my body grow worse. Time was ticking by. The clock was a quiet roar in my head, though its ticking couldn’t be heard over the thoughts and music filling the room.

At 8am tomorrow, I was going to say goodbye to the life I knew. I was going to kiss the non-existent love of my life goodbye and take on a new adventure. Something exhilarating and more than a little dangerous. I joined the Peace Corps three weeks ago. I was going to help people whose lives had been destroyed by the war that started in 2020 and ended six months ago, leaving five South Asian countries in devastation. An armistice was signed by all involved, and although a treaty was in the works, some areas had seen a return to violence.

This was the right decision. If I didn’t make it, they would say I died trying to help people. My name would be in a few people’s thoughts for a couple of days, then I would slip away, forgotten and once again without meaning.

My thoughts coiled around my throat like a noose, stealing the breath from my body and the courage from my heart. I tried to stand, but the floor turned my feet to stone. It was 10:37pm. If I left tomorrow, I would have a purpose, but one that was fleeting. I had reached for purpose before, watching the wisps of my hopes drip through my hands to the floor like life blood from my body time and time again. Was it all for nothing? All those papers I signed with a signature that had just entered the age to make a name for itself. Had I signed myself away? Or had I in fact given myself a chance at something greater?

Perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad. To go away from this little coffee shop that held my childhood and the dregs of my individuality. Leaving let me slip into anonymity. It wouldn’t be so bad. I was already nameless; I was merely becoming a cog in a wheel for some far off greater good.

I didn’t yet have a name, but for just a few moments in the infinite span of time, I was going to have a purpose. That was enough. It didn’t matter anymore what came after. The relief of this new reality soothed away the dregs of anxiety that had plagued me for weeks. The grasping stone that had been the floor only moments ago dissipated. The breath returned to my body, and for just that moment, I felt peace. I felt purpose.

Coffee had been the cure all along.