A friend lands on its shores only to depart soon after
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When I woke up in the weird little paneled room we were sharing my friend was dressed and at the door, saying she was getting us “maintenance coffee at phoebe’s.”
There is no actual Phoebe. Phoebe’s was the weird fake non cafe cafe that was the only place to get coffee at the place we were staying which was sort of a hotel sort of an expensive dorm room, a hybrid of public and private. It was a very California place that made perfect sense to my friend, a Californian, but to me, eternally a non-Californian, despite now having lived here longer than I have lived in any other state (but frankly Southern California and Northern California might as well be different states which means no experience I had before 2009 carries over) I still wake up every morning feeling I have just stepped off a spaceship and this fancy set of dorms by the sea next to a golf course did not make for an exception.
I gave strict instructions about the coffee. I wanted it black or I wanted it with cream. I did not want any milk. I hate milk in my coffee. I like cappuccinos. I like lattes. But I do not like black coffee to which milk has been added.
I didn’t fall back asleep. I stared out the crack in the window at a scrap of lawn and a cypress tree, thinking about California, its nature, what it must be like to know this place, to be in it instead of always next to it.
The coffee was surprisingly fine. My friend said it was Peet’s. I like Peet’s coffee, I said. It tastes burnt, my friend said, but it’s fine. We drink Peet’s coffee, I said. We drink it voluntarily. My friend didn’t respond.
I was still in bed. I need to drink half of this coffee and do my Wordle and then I’ll be ready to go, I said.
My friend said she’d heard of Wordle but never done it. How did one go about it? I told her to google Wordle. What is this, she said, showing me the screen. What do you do with this?
I said to just type a word with a lot of vowels into the space and hit enter, it would become clear. Ok, she said, I put in my word. Press enter, I said. There’s no enter. I exhaled slowly. She found the enter. She showed me her screen to prove it. None of the letters in the word she had chosen were in the Wordle word, but now to do my Wordle with any integrity at all I had to start with her word. She said I really didn’t have to do that, I said I really did. I put in the word, and then I put in my next word. I can’t remember if it took me three or four. It must have been four.
I said that now that I had Wordled I could get up. My friend said “I hate this,” and I said, do you hate the Wordle or the coffee, and she said the Wordle, that she hated word games, and that she just didn’t think about words this way. She asked me to tell her what the word was so she could just put it in. I told her. She typed it in and said that she was done with her Wordle too, except forever.
Later on, after we had parted, and I was moving northward and she southward, I called her and asked what she meant that she didn’t think about words the way they are in Wordle, like, did she not think of words having letters?
The thing about words, she said, is that I am always thinking about their meaning, their meaning and where they go, and all that.
Trying not to sound like too much of a bitch I pointed out that this was a practice I too engaged in on a regular basis.
Wordle was a busman’s holiday, she said. She just wasn’t seeking out extra opportunities to think about words.
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