StreetLegalPlay by Kyle Thomas Smith

Self-Parenting (Like a Total Dork)

Posted in Uncategorized by streetlegalplay on July 15, 2017

By Kyle Thomas Smith

There’s a new barista at the place where I write. He is swathed in tattoos. He has two nose rings and cartilage piercings descending to his ear spools. His black hair is streaked with green, tassled back and wrapped in a dark blue bandana. He is young-Axl-Rose-scrawny and wearing a Joy Division “Unknown Pleasures” t-shirt with the sleeves cut-off.

He is at least 20 years younger than I am but all of a sudden I’m 14 again and thinking this guy is soooo kewl. But back when I was that age, a big part of being kewl was acting like you were sooo over-it. And I am. I’m 43. But now I’m back to being 14, so now I’m not over-it but I have to act like I am.

He says, “Hi.”

A consummate adult in a J. Crew t-shirt and nothing punk about me anymore, I say, “Hi. Can I have an iced coffee and a Smart Water please?”

He reaches for the cups, “A large?”

“A large,” I say riffling through my wallet like its ragged interior is so much more fascinating than the regression I’m undergoing.

As he digs the ice out of the ice-maker, I say to my inner teenager, “No! You are not going to say you like his shirt and you are not going to say you saw Joy Division’s last show in 1980. That’s a flat-out lie. You were five in 1980, plus the lead singer killed himself the day before they could even go on their U.S. tour. No fibbing. I forbid it.”

My inner teenager calls me a dick, lights a Marlboro and wanders off somewhere. My 43-year-old self holds out my money like a battle-ax school marm in a starched collar and pumps.

The barista puts the water bottle in front of me and says, “Do you think this Smart Water should apply for a MacArthur grant?”

“I’m sorry?” I say.

“You know what that is? A MacArthur grant?”

“Oh, you mean the Genius Award?”

“Yeah,” he says with a Jeff Spicoli voice and Spicoli eyes, “It should apply. I mean it is…Smart. Water.”

So it’s a dumb joke and he isn’t giving me much to work with, but still he is trying to be friendly so I think I owe him a response. “Well,” I say, “It is an inanimate object and it doesn’t have a cerebral cortex so I don’t know what its chances would be. But as long as it has an email account, it should at least download the forms. Of course, one doesn’t ‘apply’ for a Genius Award. The MacArthur Foundation selects its genius candidates. But who knows, maybe it’s this bottle’s lucky day.”

He dead-stares at me. My inner teenager comes back and face-palms. I sidle away with my beverages and just like old times, I walk over to my table (in my J. Crew t-shirt, no less) feeling like a total dork.*

*Even though, arguably, he was a dork first with that MacArthur line.

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