"What are you reading?"
There is a creak as the door opens
My eyes look out with anticipation as I wait
To see who it is...
I make eye contact
And it's awkward -
Two people make eye contact and for one tiny moment -
An instant really
They see each other simply. Profoundly.
No story, no knowledge
Only a brief moment where you connected
Iris to Iris
Maybe there is a slight smile, a head nod
Or the downward purse of your lips as if to say,
"I know you are there and I'm here...if you want."
They walk past you and your open seat
Curled at the end of the couch
Swallowed up in cushions
You study the seat next to you - wondering
What it would be like if they sat there?
I think of -
Sideways glances and noticing how he turns a page
Inhale. Turn. Exhale.
Using only the thumb and third finger
As he reads, he touches his fingers to his lips
Letting the words travel from the page to his mouth
Looking as though a conversation is about to begin
With those words on the page
I yearn to ask him,
What do they say? What formation of letters keep your eyes hooked?
What are you reading?
I hear myself say it and a conversation beginning
I can hear it and my lips begin to part
I take a breath in as I turn my head
Then my eyes land on an empty seat
I remember that I sit alone.
My eyes are too big for reality and my imagination runs
Runs into hope
The hope that someday this seat will be filled
And I will say it aloud...
What are you reading?
-E. Salinas, May 3, 2013
The said truth is...this is what I think when I sit in coffee shops by myself. I do my work while I (not so subtly) make eye contact with whoever I find attractive, hoping that they will talk to me. Now why do I do this? The truth is that I am not quite sure. I know that it probably has to do with the hope for attention, yearning for conversation with new people or maybe I just want to chat with a very attractive man. I can only place a little bit of the blame on the movie industry that reminds the movie goers time and again that if you just sit in a coffee shop long enough someone will get the courage to talk to you for the first time. Only after admitting that they have noticed you sitting and reading/writing/drinking coffee at this specific place for x amount of time and they just had some sort of revelation from their bestie/family drama to not let you (the woman of his dreams) pass by. Then the conversation begins as the camera moves slowly away so that the audience can't hear how much you don't have in common with this person and that no numbers will be exchanged, just a story that be forgotten.
I find that when I sit in a coffee shop by myself I look at who comes in...constantly! My head seems to be on a lazy Susan that swivels from my computer screen to the door. It is so frustrating because there are days (like today) where all I wanted to do was come to a coffee shop and work. Yet I seem to have this automatic response to a shadow sweeping in the corner of my eye to look and check it out or to be honest...hopeful check HIM out. There have been times where I change my outfit in order to look better as I sit and read/write and sip my Guatemalan organic free trade blend with cream and splenda. Thankfully I have gained some restraint (at least for now) and my hair is sitting frizzy, glasses are on and my make-up is sitting in my room and not on my face. Yay for me...
What I wonder is why do we leave our homes to sit in a place where the chairs are uncomfortable, the tables wobble, you have to pay for coffee, there is a need for pants and you might not get that precious place to plug in your computer? I find that looking around there are many people sitting alone with their eyes on a screen and their ears plugged up with buds. Everyone is pretty nondescript and keeping to themselves. Yet we all have something in common, this common place where we can all sit alone and anonymously. We sit in a haven, away from the distractions of our homes, offices and communities. Sitting in a place where all that anyone knows about us is what they can see and maybe how we like our coffee.
There is a low din - a hum of noise around me
The highs and lows of a clarinet sounding through speakers
Fighting for a place while the two girls at the tall table talk
Over their electronic pulses
Reminding each other why they are friends
Through their talk of others whose ears must be burning
Stacks of cups - all with bits of liquid left
Open books and pens uncapped
While cords rope around the controlled and comforting stacks that surround them.
A man packs his bag - done for the day.
His last act is letting his keys jingle
Before placing them in his pocket
Letting those around him hear that he is departing
To a place that requires a key -
Not an open door home that we all seem to be residing in
A one-stop shop to speak or think or write or read
And all the while escaping another world
The line at the counter begins to grow
Change jingles from drawer to tip jar -
A surprising sound in a place filled with plastic swipes
I sit alone infused by those around me -
Knowing that none of us will remember each other
Or recall this day
But also knowing how thankful we are for this space
This haven - an island of escape
Where all that is known is what sits in front of us-
The papers, electric heartbeat
And the coffee that has gone cold.
-E. Salinas, September 7, 2013