On a typical Tuesday at exactly 4:30 p.m., I find myself roaming Harvard Square. The sky rumbles ominously somewhere in the heavens, echoing the rumbling in my stomach. I’m aware Annenberg has just opened, but eating dinner at 4:30 is embarrassing. What I need is a snack, something to hold me over to 6 p.m. — real dinnertime. I deserve to treat myself after such a long day of procrastinating. Unfortunately, my feet begin moving before I even realize where I’m headed. Oh god. Am I… no… no, please —
It’s 4:31 p.m. and a craving has crashed into me with all the force of the shuttle that hit Tasty Burger last year. Tragic. With all my remaining strength, I crawl feebly past Russell House Tavern toward a coppery cave-like arch. It seems I’ve been driven to do the unthinkable, to commit the cardinal sin: purchase a nearly $14 açaí bowl from Life Alive Café.
I know I shouldn’t, but I have to. Just as Dante was fated to descend into the fiery pits of Hell, so must I. But instead of Virgil, I have Kourtney Kardashian. She might not be the most famous Roman poet of all time, but at least she sells organic love potions for $25 — that’s pretty much the next best thing. Looking around me, I see Kourt is nowhere to be found. Shit. I have to brave this alone. Hands shaking, I reach for the door.
After 30 minutes of convulsions, nervous sweats, and mild vomiting, I’m officially in the building. I’m careful to not fall for the gentle mood lighting and the tasteful JoJo Siwa x West-Elm collaboration they have going on. Underneath the pastel ombre veneer, I’m pretty sure that little Gwyneth Paltrows are hidden in the walls waiting to assault me with green juice. And they damn well know I would never survive anything with kale in it.
It’s 5:02 p.m., and I’ve almost gotten to the counter. The burden of being the only person in the café who’s not in athleisure is weighing on me. I didn’t know there was a dress code. It’s no big deal — this is a get-in, get-out type of situation.
I only have to order the açaí bowl and then I can leave. I start practicing the word “açaí” in preparation. Even though I’ve heard it countless times, I know that the moment I open my mouth I’m going to crumble.
I see now that I was never going to make it to the register.
Yoga mats populate my peripheral vision. It’s over. The yogis’ idle chatter stops. I reluctantly turn to face them. Somehow, in the span of two seconds, 15 women wearing Lululemon Aligns have morphed themselves into a pyramid formation. How is that physically possible?
Atop this human edifice stands the final boss. She unzips her crossbody linen satchel to reveal an arsenal of MLM essential oils. I turn to beg the cashier for mercy. She’s nowhere to be found. The bamboo lanterns flicker, folding to the wellness queen’s power. In her hand lies what looks like a urine sample. Organic!
“Tell me what this is,” she whispers, “Name it and prove that you belong.”
I take another look and it becomes clearer. I actually know this one.
But I spoke too soon.
“No. Tur-murr-ick elixir.”
And then I know I’m done for. As the pyramid disassembles to assume a weaponized tree pose, I take a sharp right down the stairs into the belly of the beast. Honestly, I’m kind of vibing with the interior decor until I feel a chill creep down my spine. Lo and behold: something far worse than what I had faced before. Cerberus, the guard dog of the underworld, pales in comparison to these dogs.
Bare feet are everywhere. I’m not even sure that all of them are attached to people. Oh God and the toes — wait — is that fungus? Oh god, my innocence. My wish for an açaí bowl is now officially a thing of the past. All I can see are sweaty feet dancing on the grave of my hopes and dreams.
I turn to flee in an attempt to escape the odor. Before I can move, I begin to see those miniature Gwyneth Paltrows claw through the Pottery Barn-esque wall. I knew it! I knew tiny little Gwyneth Paltrows were living in there! They move in tandem to present me with a Goop jade egg. I’m supposed to put that where? Absolutely not. I throw it to the floor in disgust and watch it crack open. A compostable gift card pokes out. The little Gwyneths smile encouragingly. Suddenly, I know exactly what I need to do.
“Thanks Gwyneth Paltrows — glad you guys are here and not hitting the slopes,” I whisper before running up the rest of the stairs.
My plan is to run a blitz: short and effective. With all my remaining courage, I barrel back into the exercise class screaming, “20 PERCENT OFF ON GUT MICROBIOME SUPERPOWDER, USUALLY $58 AT GOOP.” I throw the card behind me, effectively clearing my path out of the café. It’s truly over. I take one last look inside. Damn, those ancient grain bowls look kind of good. No… No, I can’t.
I’ve made it out of Life Alive, thankfully, still alive.