I wander into my favourite coffee shop and scan the room for a good place to sit. I am planning to write a short story for the Weekly Writing Challenge at WordPress.com: Person, Place, and Thing and I need a good spot from which to observe the other patrons. The cafe is crowded, but I find a small table wedged in between the self-service coffee bar and a wall; it’s a bit cramped and not really a great spot but there isn’t much else to choose from. I dump my backpack and purse on the table then go grab my coffee.
When I return to my table I start to scan for a likely prospect… a person… any person. I suddenly realize that the only direction I can see is across the room directly in front of me. Rats. Well, there is an older gentleman sitting at one of the café tables. I focus on him consciously trying to ‘hone’ my powers of observation. The table is ‘pub style’ so tall enough you could stand at it, made of dark wood and sans table cloth. He’s perched on a high backed chair that looks kind of like a bar stool. One of his legs is dangling and the other is bent at the knee, his heel hooked on to the chair rung. His coat is half on and half off the back of the stool and he has elbow on the table and one arm slung over the back of the chair. Overall he looks pretty relaxed and is chatting with someone I can’t see as they are blocked by the corner of the wall that runs beside my table. He has a large ‘walrus’ style mustache, well-trimmed and snowy white, his skin is tanned and a bit lined – it looks like he might spend a lot of time out of doors. He’s got a white plastic spoon in his hand, the kind they provide in fast food places. I think he must have used it to stir his coffee as there doesn’t appear to be any food on the table. He puts the spoon in his mouth when he isn’t talking, almost as if he has to keep his mouth busy to prevent him interrupting the other person. So far i feel I am observing accurately – I am reluctant to pull out pen and paper as I feel this would make my observation too obvious and that would be rude. so instead I run my eyes over him committing every detail I can to memory.
He’s dressed casually like many other people in the coffee shop: faded blue shirt, white T shirt peeping out at the neck, blue jeans, and running shoes. Nothing really outstanding if I’m dead honest. Well, there is that mustache. Oh, and now I see he has very clear blue eyes. Piercing blue eyes. Oh wait, he’s realized I’m staring at him and is staring back. Shit! Without thinking how odd it will look, I quickly lean back so I am partially hidden by the self-service bar. I wait a few seconds, pretending to be engrossed in the enamel on the self-service-bar: there are lots of finger prints and coffee drips… gross. Eventually I relax and ease myself properly back into my chair. He has turned in his chair and is now fully facing his friend, but glances at me out of the corner of his eye. I gaze innocently at my coffee and wait. After a few more minutes I glance up and he’s relaxed a bit more, elbows on the table and is laughing at something his friend has said. He seems comfortable; who could his conversation mate be? He’s tapping the spoon on the table and jiggling the foot that’s resting on the chair rung. I wonder what they are discussing… who is his friend? Is it a friend? Maybe it’s a sibling or a coworker or… who knows? I can’t see the person he’s talking to so I lean forward to get a look at them and my movement draws his attention. His face turns towards me and in the split second before I can think I duck back behind the self-service counter. This is when I start to realize that I’m behaving a bit like a stalker. My face gets very hot and I’m sure that at any moment he is going to aggressively question me as to my motive. What do I do now? The mature thing would be to go speak to him, tell him what I’m doing and apologize for making him uncomfortable. Of course I’m not going to do that… talk about awkward! But I clearly can’t sit here playing some sort of demented peek-a-boo game with this stranger… I sit for a few more seconds then rapidly gulp down my coffee and grab my backpack. Hopefully I can make a graceful exit. I lurch to my feet, knocking my chair over and, head down, make a bee line for the door. My eyes do a quick sweep of the suddenly quiet coffee shop and the last thing I see before I head out the door is my ‘subject’, hands splayed on the table, head turned towards me, brow furrowed and eyes wide with surprise and his friend (a younger man – maybe his son?) watching me with an identical expression on his face. I wonder what kind of an impression I have made on them today. I don’t know that I’m cut out for these Daily Post Challenges…
Categories: short story