Slipping into the mug of insanity
Stopped at Summersault on the way to the JobCentre, some hint of fragrance to keep the mood high, or a least high enough to correct my National Insurance number multiple times without seeping into an uncomfortable chair, merging with the course upholstery and attempting some misguided transcendence into a human moth ball.
The hat rack screams at me to look. I’ve not the attire to bestow anything upon it, so I sit in my coat. Trinkets, lampshades, deep red chairs with swirling arms litter the dark wooden floor. A jazz band is playing later on, says a hand-drawn poster. I didn’t know this town knew about jazz. I imagine Joseph K. ambling into this cosy hole and causing a ruckus, not that the ruckus would stand out from the other bustling going on. The terrifyingly absurd narratives seem to dance around, riding streams of light, settling on velvet.
The doorway was nothing special from the outside – a set of brass hinges and a heavy swing, one way only – but that door has transported me from the grey outside into this labyrinth of nostalgic kitsch. The only grey that suggests the town outside, ee(a)rily steams from my mug, a mug specifically different from all the other mugs hung up behind the bar and in other peoples’ hands. One of the hanging mugs is in fact simply a mug handle, hung up. My first clue.
I remember asking for a job in this place once. If only I had read Kafka’s The Castle before this point, I could have saved myself the trouble, or prepared myself better than a simple curriculum vitae. Only a squirming but driving external force coupled with a romantic encounter behind the bar could land a job in this place. Something – perhaps the cinnamon sprinkles clinging to the insides of my mug – tells me that such a force could indeed be discovered, somewhere in the rafters of this high ceilinged coffee house, the mystery of where exactly it lies, just a few nonsensical turns away. Maybe I’ll fall over on the way to the toilet, a perfect starting point.
I take out my notepad and begin to write. Soon enough, K. is rapping me on the head with his walking stick, for why should I wear my coat when the clearly vacant hat stand is quite adequately placed next to the entrance? Whatever is wrong with me, he seems to think can be fixed with a few sharp strokes with a benevolent hand extension. I don’t look forward to when he finds out they don’t serve meat here. He looks slightly perplexed, but then so do most of the other folk. Tea is vegetarian by the way.
Soon enough, my drink has been drunk. I stand up, not before bumping into the underside of the table; it’s eccentricities do not seem to stop with that which can be seen. It most certainly knows not the insult of chewing gum, nor even the term. I leave through the same door I came in, back to the grey monotonous cold and sterile paper cups, droll faces and angry wails from slightly bearded faces. A successful trip indeed, with a wonderful ambience, if a little intoxicating. They just need to work on the context.
by James Alabaster