The girl behind the counter seems down; maybe she’s been confronted by a rude customer at some point or has had a monotonous day and is silently counting down the hours, minutes, seconds until she can go home and curl up with a cuppa.
I order my usual, a regular black Americano in the limited edition roast, always in a to-go cup and always to drink in (AN: the to-go cup keeps it warmer for longer!) I feel a pang of guilt as I watch the eyes of the waitress at the till drop with disappointment when I whip out my card. Today I have no money for a tip and mutter a pathetic apology under my breathe in hope that she doesn’t slip cleaner into my drink in spite.
I take my seat at the small table for two in the back of the café, hiding my face behind my folder in a desperate desire to not be seen by anyone I know today. Wanting to thaw out my fingertips from the bitter cold that lingers outside I cradle my coffee cup in my hands, much like an over-protective mother would do to her child. I begin to empty the contents of my bag onto the table; pencil case, notebook, highlighters, paper, a much loved and destroyed edition of Chaucer’s ‘The Canterbury Tales’ yada, yada, yada…
Whilst I annotate away The Knights Tale to my hearts content the women next to me hurry to gather up their belongings and leave. Clearly they’re humiliated at how their tiny toddler has not yet stopped whaling at the top of his lungs, flashing me an apologetic look as their cheeks crimson.
An elderly couple take a seat to my right and decide to go half-and-half on their paninis. One ordered ham and cheese, the other cheese and onion; standard pensioners preference. The lady has chosen to indulge in a large cappuccino laden with chocolate and cinnamon sprinkles accompanied with the worlds smallest gingerbread man. The man has resisted and instead opted for a small latte, omitting any sprinkles and sides. The two engage in miniscule amounts of conversation, making infrequent and short comments here and their yet, despite this the atmosphere does not feel uncomfortable and I take satisfaction in the idea that they have been together for so long now that neither feel forced to bother with small talk but rather just relish eithers companionship.
A middle aged man has taken the seat that the ladies were previously planted in. I assume he is a businessman of some sort because he wears a suit and has his i-Phone religiously strapped to his hand. Rather rapidly, as though it’s medicine, he knocks back his black espresso; a tough day at the office I presume! I’m half inclined to reach over and give him a hug whilst asking if he’s OK but I realise that rather than appear endearing as it’s intended to I’d most likely end up being provided with a strange look and a signed restraining order instead. I supress the urge and think about how his morning might have panned out. The naïve part of me likes to imagine that he woke to the sound of nature humming with his wife lying beside him sleeping soundly. In a perfect world he would have had enough time to make himself tea and a hearty breakfast. In reality and most unfortunately it’s far more likely that he woke to the cry of an alarm whilst outside was still blanketed in black. His wife in the shower and having slept in later than anticipated after a late night the only breakfast he managed to stomach before he raced out the door was a mug of strong coffee and a pathetic corner of his burnt toast.
I do this far more often than I care to admit; watch people in coffee shops, imagine what their lives are like and create scenarios for them in my head. Perhaps it’s through eagerness to escape my own thoughts momentarily, perhaps it’s a way of procrastinating from doing anything remotely productive. I’m convinced it’s both…