Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

The grey-haired woman sits at the café smiling, appearing eerily at peace. She has sat down and spread herself out over two comfy chairs with the little end table sideways between them, sitting there in her light grey sweats; we’re talking Eighties-style sweats, here, not some modern velour tracksuit with something written in large block letters across the backside.

Spreading a well-worn newspaper on the table in front of her, on her lap, on the next table, she sips her coffee with the lid removed, placing cheap drugstore reading glasses over her eyes, squinting a bit as she reads a page or two of the paper, rustling a bit, then setting it down, heading for cream.

When she returns she stops at a random man’s table – that of your humble narrator, if, dear reader, that is of interest to you – and looks to the heavens. No, she looks at the ceiling, at the speakers there. “Do you hear that?” she asks without provocation.

“What’s that,” asks the man, looking up from his book, not perturbed but certainly confused.

“It’s an organ,” she says, her voice low, almost conspiratorial. Then, she smiles again, returns to her seat, and listens to the Starbuck’s piped – in tunes as the leans her graying hair back into the brown overcoat she has folded onto her chair. The music does, indeed, come from an organ; at least, a digital reproduction thereof.

The woman sips the coffee again, genuinely looks into the paper as though she has not read this before. The man tries not to meet her eyes, for fear she will find something else strange to say or feel he is interested.

She’s reading every page of that little free “entertainment” insert into the newspaper that’s got movie and tv listings and such, maybe a recipe idea, sandwiched into a whole stack of ads, and is carefully studying it, with that same, strange smile, as though at some point it will become something interesting.

(It won’t)

She has finished her coffee or tea or latte or whatever it is that she is drinking – doubtful that it is a latte because (really much like your humble narrator) she is purchasing less the fabulous beverages that Starbucks have to offer, but rather renting her place in that (those, I suppose) comfortable chair(s), so why bother to rent the chair for four dollars when you can do it for two – she’s finished it, and pulls from her canvas grocery sack some yarn and knitting needles and begins to work.

This is not the quick flicking-clicking of a practiced knitter working to complete a project; it is the lethargic, methodical jerks of someone who is doing this to pass the time, the minutes and hours of the day as she has perhaps done to pass the moments of so many years, losing any discontent with the world in the simple, methodical work. Idle hands, devils, and all of that.

It is the arm of a sweater, a dusky lavender, which as something of a saving grace it is actually quite good work. She puts it down, though, after a few minutes and approaches the counter. The girl asks what she can get started for the woman, the standard Starbucks counter greeting, but as anyone with a practiced eye can tell the older woman is not approaching the counter to PURCHASE anything. No.

The woman speaks softly, conspiratorially to the girl behind the counter, who as a girl behind a counter wearing an apron has no choice but to listen and smile.

An observer cannot hear what the woman says, but can hear the girl respond, “Oh, no…” without any real concern. “Oh… well,” says the girl. “Well. Thank you for telling me.” You can tell she doesn’t give any half of a shit.

The woman goes back, satisfied or not, to her knitting, knitting, slowly, slowly.


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