When the boy and I inadvertently locked eyes, I knew I was in a no-fly zone.

Simple sequence of events. Or a string of cause-and-effect occurrences. 

My star employee came to my office last Friday and told me two things: 

  1. I quit
  2. I started practicing meditation and I love it

I think I felt more excited than Emily herself about 1 (change is always stimulating) and also about 2. I told her about my experimentation with Headspace and how it, to me, is an antivirus for the mind. Let’s meditate together, she said. She had found a place in Westwood and had already signed up for a group session at 8pm on Sunday. Awesome, I’m in.

Sunday comes and it’s too close to Monday and Calabasas is too far from Westwood. I had recently listened to Stephen Dubner say that we have to learn to say “no” when we don’t really feel like doing something we’ve been asked to do. It’s all about opportunity cost. Okay, I say yes a lot. Time to change this nefarious habit.

Emily went by herself and reported back that meditating for one hour was so much harder and less enjoyable than doing it for 10 minutes. 

I, for my part, drove to Sharky’s and ordered a power plate: mahi-mahi, broccoli, sweet potatoes. To go, please. It’ll be 10 minutes, sir. I walked to a small bar table and began waiting. Now, a strange force compelled me to look to my right where the booths are located.

That’s when I saw him staring at me.

Oh, shit.

I smiled and nodded. He responded with a nod. Next to him was his little sister, and across the table, a middle aged man. No mother in sight, thank god. But what if she’s in the restroom?

A woman I dated not long ago ended our relationship almost immediately after I met her kids. (I just realized how pathetic this sounds). The boy and I had spent two fun afternoons kicking a futbol ball, then she said “let’s just be friends.”

Pretend you’re busy, my brain ordered. I robotically went to the salsa station and began pouring salsa verde in plastic containers. I do not like salsa verde. Once I filled three containers, I escaped the restaurant and went across the street to Starbucks. I ordered a venti iced tea, took a seat, and proceeded to contemplate my little plastic containers while sipping my tea. Slowly. No rush.

Then I looked up.

Hola pibe, ven sentate conmigo! A voice beckons me in Spanish. Diego used to work at my company until a massive round of layoffs caught him off-guard two years ago. He is a doctor by training.

But nowadays, I’m a life coach, he said.

He told me all about it, and then proceeded to pass “professional” judgment on me. I notice you’re a bit edgy, my friend. Your mind needs focus, direction. My food is getting cold, I thought. I feel compelled to help you. I’ll teach you about mirror neurons and non-verbal communication and mirroring techniques and, you know what, I am not going to charge you for the first session. Shall we start next Saturday here in this Starbucks? I just moved to the area and I really like this place, I’m always here on the weekends.

Of course, why not, but I gotta go now, I said.

How wonderful. Of all places, my favorite coffee shop.

I ran out across the street. The kids were still in their booth. There was a tall blonde at the salsa station. Before she could turn around, I grabbed my food and went home.

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