The Weather

An Epistle to the Konami Code Priest in the Coffee Shop

Up, Down, Up, Down,
Right, Left, Up,
you bounced at the coffee shop
where the English department hangs out downtown.

I thought you were merely finishing
your exercise routine before ordering
that cap with almond milk because that’s
the kind of stuff people who order almond milk do.

But then you started again.
Up, Down, Up, Down,
Right, Left, Up,
just before the barista, who obviously knew you,
handed you a ceramic saucer and cup.

I almost spoke to you because
I wanted to make a joke about Konami,
but I figured that you’d heard it before,
or that it would’ve been in bad taste,
or more likely both.

I chose not to say anything,
not out of the kindness I surely lack,
but because I became worried about
the breakable serving vessels you handled
with your bouncing body.

But the distracting act of protecting the delicates
calmed you for the few-second journey from
the counter to the stool by the window,
only a few seats away from me.

“Distract and replace,” my therapist tells me.
I guess it works for you, too,
because as soon as you transferred the responsibility
of safeguarding from gravity the cup and saucer to a table,
you stirred once again.

Up, Down, Up, Down,
Right, Left, Up,
you repeated in the stool
throughout the afternoon

except for the few times
I diverted you—
the few times I went to pee
or pretended to grab a napkin
and made you scoot your stool in
to let me pass.

All I wanted to do was to still you,
not for the sake of my reading and writing,
not for the sake of the others doing what coffee shop people do,
but for the sake of you.

By the time I left with the coffee jitters,
the only way I can quiet my mind
to get me through these unsure evenings,
I told myself you’ve found comfort
in the rhythm and ritual

you’re not scared to practice
even in a coffee shop.
I told myself we, not you, are
the ones who avoid death
by using cheat codes.

Win Bassett is a writer and seminarian at Yale Divinity School from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. His essays have appeared in The Atlantic, Los Angeles Review of Books, The Paris Review Daily, Paste, Nieman Storyboard, Books & Culture, Religion & Politics, Publishers Weekly, INDY Week, The Toast, The Roanoke Times, and elsewhere. He serves as contributing editor and interim fiction editor of the Marginalia Review of Books. Twitter: winbassett.