I walked into “Barista’s” this morning, a coffee shop in Tracy that I essentially lived in for about a year and a half. The seating is kind of tight along the walls, and I had to squeeze past a couple of older, biker-looking men to get to my spot.
“Sorry, dude, do you have enough room?” one asked me as he shifted a little bit in his seat.
“Ah, it’s fine,” I said, waving my hands.
This gesture must’ve given me away as something other than cismale. Or maybe it was my voice. The two men started to laugh among each other. They shrugged, and talked with each other about how they “thought [I] was a dude.”
As I stood in line for coffee, I continued to get quizzical frowns and double takes from the other patrons of the cafe. This is one of the main reasons why I really did not want to live in Tracy anymore. I don’t feel safe here. These microaggressions do not only exist in the Central Valley. Just this week, my boss in the Bay Area had jokingly called me an “it” during a one-on-one meeting.
Coffee and oatmeal acquired, I had to squeeze past these two men again and sat down, feeling soul-weary and bitter, and felt something flutter past my hair and tap lightly onto the table. At first, I thought it was a leaf , but, to my surprise, I found they were a moth.
This creature was a lovely surprise. I don’t normally see moths in cafes. We were both out of our element. I felt my bitterness and my story-making slowly fizzle out. The moth kept trying to crawl under my laptop, perhaps for warmth, since there were no lights shining underneath. I let them hang out on my table for a while. Fear for their safety—I might accidentally squish them while moving things around—got the better of me. I scooped them up with a coffee lid and left them on a window ledge outside.
Outside may not be safer, but at least they have more space to fly.