“Welcome to the cat cafe!” my server grins as I sign a waiver form. He’s wearing cat ears and has a giant smile on his face.
Though it was my idea to come to the cat cafe, I was a little hesitant walking in.
“Are there going to be other people in there? Or am I just going to be the weird cat person spending a day inside?”
“Annie. Austin’s motto is ‘keep it weird.’ Of course you’re weird to go, but so is everyone else in there.”
Sitting down, a striped black and brown cat leaps onto my table, walks across my laptop and stares at the wall across from me. I try to pet him, and he lashes out to bite me. We exist in silence for a long time until a server comes over to pet him and he leaps off.
My server is new to Austin himself, and this is his 5th day on the job and he is thrilled. He keeps coming to check on me with his cat ears and a huge smile on his face.
I order a coffee and sit down for a few hours of meditation and writing.
There are 13 cats from the Texas Humane Society in this little cafe, complete with climbing trees, ropes courses, balcony perches, food bowls, toys scattered across the floor, a cat band drum set and cuddle couches. The cats get adopted out whenever there are customers who form the right connection with them.
The room heating up with the hot Texas weather wakes me up this morning, and I look around me.
There is a “¡Mesamerica Resiste!” poster by the Beehive Collective taking up half a wall, detailing falling trees, industry versus animals and the jungle creatures gathering in the middle to talk, plan and investigate the toxic material which has appeared in their jungle. A small square inch of the beautiful poster is shown in the picture at the top of this post. (http://weestore.myshopify.com/)
Carinne and I are two sides to the same coin. We’re both after the same things- magic and social justice- but we pursue it in different ways.
Carinne leans heavier on the visual. Walking into her room is like entering a fairy land. I realize I’ve never seen any of Carinne’s things before. I’ve only known Carinne the “person without things” from NCCC.
There are her own paintings of epic proportions, crystal lamps, African, Asian, North American and South American statues and trinkets. A “Malt Scotch Whiskey” showcase is filled with books and paint brushes. The top shelf contains books on the arts and magic, the second is full of politics/languages, and the bottom shelf is full of painting supplies. Dirty colored rags and brushes of all proportions along with Zinn’s People History, Henry Kissinger’s World Order, German dictionaries, and dance theory.
There is a big German flag hung over her desk, which is signed by all of her friends from her study abroad trip, and au pair year there. Her rock climbing equipment along with her crazy fur jacket that she always wore out in NCCC which signaled that she might cast a spell on you if you crossed her.
Except no one crosses Carinne. She is kind to everyone, and I think that’s the difference between us. We are both driven by wanting to please others and make other people happy, but I think I have an easier time running away, or telling people to fuck off. Which is both a good and a bad thing. We balance one another out.
But being part of the same coin is also key to the occasional tension between us. Because we are so alike, we expect the other to follow in a way similar to how we would do it. There is more judgement for each other than we have for other people, probably because we expect more.
The thing I miss about being around Carinne is her confidence in being casual and intentional around things that stress me out. And I hope I can be the same for the things that stress her out.
I find Carinne has left me a banana and an orange this morning, along with a hand drawn map of the neighborhood and how to get to campus to meet her for lunch.
I walk out of the coop and followed the stream of college students toward campus, stopping at a coffee shop along the way and snagging a table outside in the sunshine.
As I am reading and starting to sweat in my longsleeves and jeans, I hear a voice behind me.
Carinne sits down and we sit and finish coffee together, then head to lunch.
We head to a vegetarian restaurant, ordering vegetarian frito chili pie and rubens along with beet juice lemonade. Everyone has dreadlocks, tanned skin and tattoos to boot in this city dusty desert city with a radical flavor.
If I was here longer, I would check out the Mexican heritage center and kayak on the river with Carinne, but I think today we are just going to hang out in the park, and get a beer later tonight.
Yesterday I left KC and immediately put in an audio book of Amy Schumer’s “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” and got to work driving, drinking coffee and listening. A lot of it is about Amy’s “rags to riches” story, by which she means growing up rich, her family losing a lot of their excess wealth, and having a moderate income instead. She acknowledges her privilege to some extent, and then goes on and on about how fun it is to spend money on shit she knows is pointless. She also covers issues of sexual assault, women leadership, body image, abusive relationships and domestic violence, gender roles, gun violence and introversion.
“Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy. It means you enjoy being alone. Not just enjoy it—you need it. If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them—like the sun. They give you life, sure, but they can also burn you… So if you’re an introvert like me, especially a female introvert, or a person who is expected to give away your energy to everyone else on the reg, I want to encourage you to find time to be alone. Don’t be afraid to excuse yourself. Recharge for as long as you need. Lean up against a tree and take a break from the other bears. I’ll be there too, but I promise not to bother you.”
A few hours later I pull over to a gas station outside of Wichita with the windy Kansas plains blowing over me as I try to eat a bagel in the sunshine.
I am already beginning to feel the extra layer of grease and grunge that comes along with being in the car all day.
I pop in the audiobook for Malala Yousafzai’s book, “I am Malala,” which I have always wanted to read. It is a much different pace than Amy’s book, and soon I am learning about the Swat Valley, Pakistani culture and the pure courage of a 15 year old girl singled out and shot by the Taliban, surviving to be a 19 year old leader in the world.
“I’ve always been a daydreamer, and sometimes in lessons my mind would drift and I’d imagine that on the way home a terrorist might jump out and shoot me on those steps. I wondered what I would do. Maybe I’d take off my shoes and hit him, but then I’d think if I did that there would be no difference between me and a terrorist. It would be better to plead, ‘OK, shoot me, but first listen to me. What you are doing is wrong. I’m not against you personally, I just want every girl to go to school.’”
Around lunchtime I’m in Oklahoma City at a Korean cafe eating a bibimbap styled wrap while the tea drinkers around me have whole marigolds sitting in their clear glass teapots. The sun is out and it’s warm.
I parked in probably the exact same parking spot that I did exactly two and a half years ago, when I made the trip down to visit Deb in Albuquerque and made a solo stop here as well.
Around 10:30 at night I stumbled into Carinne’s Cooperative, and introduced myself to her 19 roommates. She feeds me vegan buffalo chicken pasta and chamomile tea. We practice a little bit of Spanish and fall asleep.