I sit often at the cafe as I knit, drink coffee, and sometimes talk with people I might know, although that is rare. More often than not nobody notices me, I am invisible here in this cafe. Especially the teens and the men, and I feel terrifically androgynous and formless, although I am perplexed how in a way it seems that I am not even in the room. So I watch people.
He came in through the door violently, and although the line to the register had only one person ahead of him, a woman looking at the big chalkboard menu noncommittally, he walked nearly into the register and said to the barista ” Give me an espresso. Two shots. To go ” . The woman who was supposedly next to be waited on hadn’t really approached the register area, and she was standing further back, aloof, feeling the aggression falling about him like a fractured aura, crashing and disturbing in the room. He winked at her. It shook her, shocked her, and it seemed she might have thought, like me ‘who winks at anybody, that is so old-fashioned, he is so full of himself’.
She noticed a wedding ring on his left hand and he kept looking back at her while the barista was clanking about with the espresso machines. He apologized for the fact that he may have cut in front of her, but she maintained that she hadn’t decided what she wanted yet. Then she turned away, purposely, and stared off out the window as though it was far more entertaining outside of the cafe, the sun beating down and melting the asphalt. She suddenly felt self-conscious that she was talking to a man who seconds before actually winked at her, a married man, and time was going at a standstill. Her discomfort was so obvious to me as I watched above the rim of my reading glasses, my fingers moving robotically through the lace stitches, and I drew another few yards from the ball of yarn.
He appeared to revel in the effect he had on her, making her nervous, shifting her weight from one high-heeled sandal to the other, and he glared at her figure poured into a black cotton knit sleeveless dress, a real June flower. I noticed the label of her dress was flipped out from where I sat, showing a cheap brand and disguised only partly from her big bouncy bleached Barbie Doll ponytail. I watched while he stared at her, until his double espresso was set on the counter. He paid and shot out of the room rudely. She seemed to feel insulted even as she purposely did not look at him while he left the room abruptly, without even another word , wink or stare.
I watched her as she was next and nobody else was in line, she spoke to the barista ” I’ll have an iced Americano with a whole lot of ice please ” and the moments that lingered as she faced now away from the window, disinterested in the view of the sun melting the paint off the cars in the small parking lot, but now took a new direction to boldly face the barista at the register. I could not stop thinking about her tag flipped out, and how chintzy it made her dress look. After a minute, she took her icey drink, and turned toward the door but for an instant looked at me and I was ready with a gesture pointing to the back of my neck, and moved my lips without vocalizing… ‘your tag’. She thanked me and almost girlfriend-like said ‘ only a girl would tell you that ‘. I agreed silently with a smile, and she smiled on her way out into the heat. I felt strangely softly violated by her acknowledgement, but no longer felt invisible, or androgynous.
It is the last day of spring, scorching hot, and I am writing in pen on paper napkins. Tomorrow is the summer solstice.