I write this sitting in the newly constructed Starbucks at Trincity. Actually, I was lying. I am sitting in my living room in an armchair that was a result of almost two months of searching because I needed the right fit. Needless to say, this armchair will move wherever I do because I tend to be closely attached to my seat of work. I write mainly on a couch or in this case, the armchair, because a desk feels too constricted. But these are not just digressions. I mean to write about space today preoccupied as I have been by mental and physical spaces.
My earliest memory of space comes from home. My room was a breezy, bright space. With the exception of school mornings, my window was always the first thing I opened to look outside and breathe in the air of freedom just for that moment. After that it was all downhill, school being a mental obstacle. As a means of allowing my mind the freedom to dream, my desk always faced the window or at least, was positioned where I could see outside if I turned or lifted my head. Trapped in a life encumbered by rules and regulations, I compensated in other ways. I insisted on the warmth of my personal space – a lamp on my desk, switched on at random times in the night when I woke to write some arbitrary thought that may have entered just when I was dozing off, and books into which I could escape.
I didn’t enjoy the desk during my primary and high school days. It spoke of rigidity, the social urge to study and pass those exams. I approached studies with an invisible hand – not gentle in my estimation – shoving me towards it. I bided the time for the years to be over. Needless to say, I am enjoying the process of aging now, never the feeling to return to youth. The desk is now a safe space, a place where I am most at peace.
I return to the lie.
When I began this column, I was sitting in my armchair, a space occupying six and a half tiles, a place which I have positioned against a bookshelf of miscalculated dimensions. But it is fine for now for the shelf provides me with a warmth that I like. I play with the idea of what it would look like when I finally get the opportunity to cut the shelves and reposition them so that they are not as wide as they are now, where my novels and reference material can sit comfortably, like neatly fitted clothes – just enough space to accommodate body size and shape.
I lied because at that very moment, it felt real. It was a moment of role play, a moment when I felt it okay to recreate the feeling of writing in a coffee house. I meant to be at that space at 7 am on the morning that I began writing this. Rather I stayed in with my partner who had decided on staying in. Armed with cups of coffee at our side, each one of us taking up our positions on respective couch/armchair, we began working. The coffee house manifested in a living room space – coffee, laptops – a day begun in a camaraderie that I preferred not break, a sense of comfort in the early morning hours.
I began with the intention of writing about Starbucks and the creation of a culture. I suppose in a way I am doing just that. I focus on the value of a space that we can imagine our way through, because that is exactly what the coffeehouse provides. It is a space into which I can walk and feel a sense of well-being; wear a self, one suitable to the environs, a self that fits into this space created around coffee.
We have all come here, a community of people, each individual or group engaged in different activities. But we share one thing in common, a certain code of conduct in this environment. We are murmurs over the scent of fresh brews and warm banana bread. We are a part of the Hollywood film culture – caffeinated, decaffeinated voices – productive whether it is in relation to a relationship we are exploring or in work that we have set about to accomplish. Laptops, books, notebooks – common table décor. We are all players in the act of place making. And so, as much as some may cry American colonization, the coffeehouse serves the essential purpose of providing an alternative space for the imagination. After all, this all began in the Middle East.
(PS. I do recommend that Starbucks stock sandwiches in which cheese is not a staple!).