February 6


I have been having trouble remembering the details of the day. Even journaling day to day has been insufficient to keep the minute details in line. It’s not like I don’t enjoy life. I’m content and I’ve recently had plenty of pleasant moments. Yet I keep living in a soup of hours, faces, and spaces that barely leave any traces. 


I’ve been reading my diary entries from last year. The one from June 25 seemed to signal the beginnings of my current mental state:


June 25 – Aix-en-Provence, people watching in the promenade


“The best thing would be to write down events from day to day. Keep a diary to see clearly – let none of the nuances or small happenings escape even though they might seem to mean nothing. And above all, classify them. I must tell how I see this table, this street, the people, my packet of tobacco, since those are the things which have changed. I must determine the exact extent and nature of this change.”

  • Sartre, the incipit of Nausea


I got bored at my host parents’ home. V keeps calling me to the living room for biscuits and tea. She talks about how communism, refuges, and Macron have been ruining France. I don’t quite get how she thinks those three are connected. Oddly enough, I enjoy her company. There is something comforting about our difference. 

Recently, I’ve been feeling that I’m living more than I can record in my memory. I am awfully aware that what happened on Saturday does not feel the same on Monday. Even on the day of my experiences, I lose so much of the moments. It bothers me that I can’t remember enough. 


Memory does not speak, but I want it to speak. Memory is silent, but I want it to scream. 


February 7


I have been thinking about Sartre’s incipit. Perhaps days are too long for me. I must change the scale of memory. I’ll try writing in hours and minutes. I don’t like writing, but I will write. 

I have an assignment for an anthropology class. The task is to describe in great detail what is happening in a space. I suppose I will use that as an excuse to change the time scale of my writing. I’ll write about Coffee Club. 


Feb 8, Thursday 12:20


I don’t have a shift today. I enter the shop for a cup of coffee. I peek behind the bar to see who is working. The familiar faces give me comfort. I get in the line. There are 4-5 people before me. The grinder growls. A barista yawns. The chatter in the background blends into the rhythmic mechanical sounds behind the bar. Customers giggling, light footsteps, the matcha whisk buzzing, the espresso machine dispensing water after every shot. Order and chaos coincide in the complex soundscape. 

The more experienced barista intently watches the espresso shot drip into the espresso tumbler. The flow isn’t very steady. The barista looks at the pull time and starts complaining about how short it is. 

“It is severely under extracted,” I hear her say. The other baristas peak at the shot and nod along. The senior barista asks her two colleagues whether they would like to dial in the espresso, a process that requires adjusting the size of the grounds and the dosage to ensure the optimal taste profile. The younger baristas nod along, agreeing to a mid-rush espresso rollercoaster. 

One of them giggles and says “I can’t drink espresso. I’m not built for that.” The other two shrug and giggle back. They split the shot of espresso into three tiny porcelain cups after mixing it between two espresso tumblers. The baristas assume different corners behind the bar and turn away from each other while tasting the espressos. The newer ones avoid eye contact with the espresso connoisseur, waiting for someone else to comment on the taste. Behind the bar, saying the espresso’s bitter when it’s sour is like a sin behind the bar. They choose their words carefully.

They take another sip of the espresso and someone announces the verdict: “It is too bitter. We should try setting the grinder coarser to make it less bitter.” The trio nods along to the decision. One of them makes eye contact with the customers and heads back to the register. The barista and the many customers go back and forth asking questions:

“What can I get you today?”

“Which syrups do you have?”

“What is a small?”

“Is cow’s milk fine, or would you like soy/oat?”

“Yes, I can add it to the tab. What was the name?”

It is my turn to order. I always second guess my order. I look at the barista and utter a long “hi” to gain time. We make small talk and I decide to get a cappuccino. 


Feb 8, Thursday 12:42


(Writing in hours and minutes is tiring. I want to go back to days.) I finished my cappuccino. I am nodding along to the music on aux and doing readings. If I see anything interesting, I take notes. 

Sometimes I feel as though I might fully lose the ability to write if I force myself to write. The temporal precision of this exercise is inducing in me a sense of discipline that I find disturbing. 


Feb 9, Friday 10-1pm


Feb 9, Friday 10:05


I have a shift after my Chinese class. Since it is the Chinese New Year’s Eve, our professor taught us how to do calligraphy. I picked up a red bookmark and wrote “peace” (héping: 和平) on it. I could have stayed for longer to write more elaborate characters on bigger pieces of red paper. Yet I had to leave for my shift. Afraid of smothering my first calligraphy attempt, I carried the bookmark in my hand to the shift.
Entering the shop, I say hi to a few friends studying at the tables. Three baristas stand behind the bar, one of whom sighs in relief upon my arrival. She clocks out and leaves for a precept. As I wash my hands, I greet my coworkers.  A few minutes later, an off-shift barista stops by for a drink and chats with us. He remarked that we all had brown-hued sweaters. I jokingly note that we look like a thrift store. A week or so earlier when I invited a friend to apply to become a barista, the friend answered that he didn’t have the barista “aesthetic.” I think about that looking at our brown sweaters, baggy jeans, and corduroy pants. It’s true that we have an aesthetic that matches the wooden interior of the shop.


The barista on aux left at 12. Now I am responsible for setting the atmosphere of the shop. It’s a rush. Customers are arriving in groups. I don’t have much time to write this entry or to choose the music. So I just put on my Spotify Chill Mix.




The Chill Mix happened to mainly consist of jazz songs, an accurate reflection of my recent taste. A customer stopped by a few minutes ago and asked who was on aux. The baristas pointed at me. He told me that he liked the “tunes”–what an interesting word choice. Every three or four minutes, he tries to guess the song. He hasn’t guessed the song right even once until now. While we don’t mean to be impolite, we laughed at his questions. We are used to seeing all kinds of people. 



I was on the register for twenty minutes, repeating the same questions over and over again. When I first became a barista last year, I disliked being on the register the most. I didn’t like dealing with money and facing people directly intimidated me. Maybe it was because I also felt intimidated ordering drinks at coffee shops. There were too many options, yet I only liked simple drinks like espresso and batch brew. 

I am looking forward to getting off my shift. I am tired. After Friday shifts, I feel the entire weight of the week collapsing on me.



I am sipping on my shift drink on one of the barstool chairs, no longer behind the bar. I am sipping on my shift drink. I survey the people and objects around me to see if I am missing anything.



I will leave the shop after I write a few more sentences to this entry. An interviewer and an interviewee sat next to me. They are talking about a finance job, I think I heard the interviewee saying “generalist” and “trader”. I don’t understand the conversation entirely, yet the terminology and their professional air contrasts with the warmth of the shop. They are being glared at from all directions. 

It is almost a violation of Coffee Club’s code of conduct to bring the corporate world into the shop and to profane its sacred relaxed pace with outside realities. 


Still Friday, 8:30-11pm



I am back to coordinate a comedy show at the shop. It is just the comedy people, me, and the three baristas behind the bar until 9pm. Some performers removed the cables from their source and I struggled to put everything back together. There isn’t a single shift without a mini crisis at Coffee Club. 



The line for drinks stretches outside the shop. I can’t even go to the closet.


The performers are done. I relax a bit. I have never organized such a busy event. I guess it’s good for the business, yet I feel a bit bad for the baristas who staff the events I organize. I try to help as much as I can on both sides of the bar. 


Feb 11

I forgot to write yesterday. I guess I will remember February 9, 10 am-1pm and 8:30-11pm in great detail and forget about February 10. 

I see a spider on my ceiling. I will gladly look away and try to forget that it’s there living above me. 

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