A Single Day in Any Cafe, A Short Story

written 6/2015 First Draft. Still trying to find the proper “voice” for this character, so please be forgiving of the eye-rolling “noir” bits. (They will eventually be edited out.) As always, I welcome your thoughts.

by Megan Blaney aka wiedienacht

Lip syncing to a popular song doesn’t make you hip. Just like posturing doesn’t get you noticed. Yet, I found myself watching her as she worked. The sway of her hip as she nonchalantly cleared a table for the next customers, the rhythm of her lips as she mouthed “We Will Rock You,” the way she kept glancing in my general direction. I noticed her blue cap, knit with a red M, clashing with the frilly white and yellow skirt she wore over plaid shorts (a lesson in hipster outfitting 101.) She seemed too tall for natural grace, yet she could still glide through the room.

I sipped my coffee and watched her for a while- when she paused to pick up a book, dust a table, or check her phone. I looked away only when she looked my way, and one other time when she bent to dust the railings. I was curious, not leching.

My wrap was bland. While I’d been finishing it, she had retreated up the short steps to the other side of the building, where I couldn’t watch her anymore.

Every time I came here I ordered the same thing. A veggie wrap, on wheat, and a small coffee, organic house blend. The wrap was always tasteless, the coffee always hit the spot but cooled much too quickly.

Whenever possible, I chose the same seat. The one next to the window, with a view of a construction project across the green-brown river. They’d been working on it for a couple seasons. It didn’t seem that they’d made much progress- just erected the standard construction huts, bulldozed a few ruts, peeling away the blanket of grass, exposing the dirt and clay. Pillows of brown grit drifted off in every breeze, settling on a row of trucks the workers had arrived in. Stacks of dried trees littered the site, but as it used to be a meadow, I’m not entirely sure where they came from.

I’ve seen fish in the river a few times, a handful of ducks, and I once watched an otter high tail it across the bank, dipping into the river now and then. An air conditioner blocked the best view now, a casualty of summer. But I didn’t get the spot today, anyway. A random guy with tight shorts and a tiny lap top sat at “my” table. Currently, he was occupied more with his phone. Both were plugged in, the cords running under the table between his knees, I’m assuming they ended at the wall but my eyes couldn’t complete the trail.

Every wall was a different color; every door, too. Even the knobs didn’t match. The decor was held together by a mutual feeling of haphazardry. If that’s a word. (If hipster is a word, haphazardry can be a word, too.)

I’d finished my coffee. I should’ve asked what the “M” stood for on her hat. But what if it was obvious? I’d look like a fool.

I wondered how long they’d let me stay after closing. I imagined them cleaning up around me, shutting off lights, stacking chairs onto tables, leaving me alone in my corner to read. They’d look at me without seeing me as they worked, dragging a broom over the wooden floors, taking a rag to the windows, writing tomorrow’s specials on the white board. All the while, they’d be trickling out the door, waving goodbye, wishing the others well. Until finally it was just me. And her. Of course. Then I could ask about the hat and not feel weird at all.

The laptop guy had finally lost interest in his phone and was actually on his computer, typing up something in a word processor. I was a little too far away to make out the words.

I’d never seen her in there before, and I come every day except Sundays (they’re closed.) She must be new. All the others know me by my first name. I didn’t know theirs, because I’ve never asked. It’s normal for them, it’s professional. For me, it would have felt out of place. Personal.

There’s this dove I watch from my window at home sometimes, the window of my office. When I’m supposed to be working, I’ll watch her instead. (The thought only just now crossed my mind that the dove may be male.) She sits for hours. Occasionally, if the weather’s nice and I want a breeze, I’ll have the window open and I can hear her cooing, “Whoo-OO-oo, who, who, who?” I wish I had an answer for her.

I tip my trash into the bin, and leave my empty dishes in the receptacles. Self-service here, for the most part, so no tips except for the jar out front. I’ve left more than a few coins in there, a few dollars here and there, as well. Not that I can really afford it, but it makes me feel OK.

I didn’t today, though.

The bell above the door gives a jingle as I walk out.

The next day I’m back, same time. My seat’s available, but the new girl isn’t here. I don’t ask after her, just find my spot and munch my wrap in silence, watching the workers through the window, and the stream as it carries ducks and bits of human waste away in its currents.

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