It’s become my usual coffee shop – The Metropolis Coffee on 11th. It is close enough to everything that I would need at an early hour, but still low key enough in the mornings where I can sit for a minute and think, jot down a handful of ideas, and embrace the sunlight rising through the huge, dirty windows. Though, in about an hour a line will as the day begins for most, as coffee is required, as people set up their before-work meetings to discuss the bigger ideas of things they’d rather be doing.
On a particular morning there are two backpacks leaning against an otherwise empty wall. Their names, Kelty and Marmot, stitched neatly on their top panels. Loosely stacked on top of them are their owner’s jackets shed with the warmth of the cafe. The packs are still bright, clean with luggage tags of opportunity attached to them – these packs have so many miles to see still. They haven’t been set down in the dirt or unpacked and repacked a dozen times a day as their frustrated porters search for that ONE thing they could have sworn they brought – the knife, the flashlight, the blister kit. No, things have yet to be lost in the depths of their pockets. The straps have yet to dig deep into the shoulders of their porters, the belts have yet to raise welts or rub hipbones raw. These are brand new packs crammed tight and full of potential.
I see their porter’s at the counter. A guy and a gal still in some stage of loving one another. They are as fresh as the packs left against the wall. Their skin still unmarred by the wind and the sun, their hair still damp from that morning’s shower. They are still talking to one another – a sure sign they are somewhere early on in their journey together. Next, they’ll pile everything onto a bus, onto a plane, onto their backs as they start off down this path. Sometime in a week or two they’ll agree it might be best to take “maybe just a day, or something” apart. Their is a lot of exploring to do, and with every exploration is a need or desire to miss something.
Today is nice. The air in the city is still cool and damp and ready to be written on . Tomorrow will be a mix of dusty trails and endless sun or foreign cities and hostel beds. There will be arguments over going left or right, and the unrested peace that comes with either being right or wrong.
Denver isn’t great with bags or those who carry their world on their backs. These two, they are clean. And that is enough of an advantage. Outside are shopping carts filled with items collected from the streets, there are tattered backpacks held by men and women who have spent night after night sleeping on the asphalt. Around here, there are those who have their worldly possessions gripped in a plastic bag, bright pink with the logo of the nearby hospital, wrist wrapped in identifying plastic. A night spent hooked to machines only to be released in the morning to try surviving again.
There was a summer I lived out of a car, mostly by choice, where I was frequently days form my last shower. Days when I walked into numerous coffee shops, breweries, restaurants and gas stations wearing heavy boots caked in mud. My face and clothes covered in campfire soot, my wild hair sticking out from the edges of my basball cap. I’d walk into these places and expect to be served, never once thinking about the other people there because I had, in my own mind, a sense of home in all of that.
The idea of home, then, is rather obtuse when it is stripped bare. A place we have keys to, full of stuff we’ve collected. The backpackers in my cafe this morning, I can only assume they have a home and they have chosen to forgo it for a short while. They have loaded up their packs tall with things pertinent to their existence and taken off.
To have that kind of freedom is the ultimate one to take for granted.