It’s Monday morning.
I have just dropped off the kids at school. It’s been a long weekend and an excess of catch-up work awaits me. I duck inside a coffee shop. The weight of my canvas bag, heavy with responsibility hangs at my side.
The barista asks if I want all three shots in my cappuccino and I say no, I am not feeling that ambitious. We exchange smiles. I order a latte with almond milk instead. One shot, I tell her because something within needs me to be calm.
I sit down, pull a tiny notebook out of my pocket, start a list:
My pen stops working. I pull out another. The flow of ink is intermittent. It leaves blotches of color over my attempt at words, smearing, staining, sinking into the crevices in my skin. I drop it back into my bag. I lift my laptop screen and run my thumb across the silver button in the corner. A blue light gutters. The screen stirs, hesitates. It comes to life, sluggish like a waking child. A message appears:
Windows failed to start. A recent hardware or software change might be the cause.
I decide that today I believe in signs.
I close the laptop screen.
I slide my notebook off the table and let it fall in to the deepest pocket of my jacket. Breathing out, I let my back rest against the chair. My hands seek the warm curvature of the mug, steaming with fresh ground coffee and milk. My fingers want to find all the cracks in it, the chips, explore the texture of the deep blue glass. So I let them.
Without any tasks to attend to, my eyes too are free to do as they wish, to wander and skip across my surroundings. One-hundred hues of amber in an exposed brick wall, marred wood floors tread on by a multitude of thirsty feet, geometry in the random placement of tables, symmetry in the purposefully mismatched chairs.
Outside, tree branches pliant, eager with buds bend in the breeze. Tiny grey birds light on the sidewalk. A man tosses out crumbs from his coat pocket.
Sunlight streams through a scattering of papers taped to the window. New yoga studio opening, benefit concert. Support for Recovering Addicts. Les Miserables, guitar lessons, scrap metal wanted, now hiring, an album release and a faded picture of someone’s lost dog.
Fitzgerald’s inexhaustible variety of life, right here in a coffee-shop window.
Satisfied with their findings, my eyes drift back inside the shop to the people who share my Monday morning place.
In the center of the shop, several white-haired men are gathered in a half-circle, drinking from dandelion-colored mugs. They exchange stories, grievances, laughter. The soft creases around their eyes reveal a gentle witness to something unwritten. They have seen things they cannot learn. Time and love and loss have given them things they cannot teach.
I sip my latte, the tiny bubbles in the froth like velvet across my lips. A part of me wants to join the half circle, to drink in their knowings like almond milk.
But I only stay here by the window and listen.
Another man with a weathered face and thinning hair sits alone at a table near the door, his eyes locked on the device in his hand. He palms the phone with misplaced tenderness like a relic from the antique store. Anticipation waits in his eyes; loneliness. Pain so fresh I wonder who else can see.
He lifts his eyes and I smile, but he doesn’t return it. He turns back into his silent custody and I wonder if there is irony waiting there in his palm.
A young woman comes in with soft footsteps, hair golden and glossy like rose petals. She’s young, maybe 20, beautiful in the way that very old paintings of young women are: impossibly pale, unmarked, unbroken, ceramic fresh from a kiln. Her face is hope.
I think of my daughters, five and 10, golden haired and pure and sweet as sunlight. Maybe they will look this way in 10 years, 15, 20.
I wonder what this girl would tell them. What she knows and what she hopes to know. I wonder what the man with his heart attached to the electronic device would say. What stories the old men in the half circle would share; how they might survive this dark and chaotic world, how they will find the answers that cannot be taught.
I think about what I will tell them. That when something within wants us to be calm, we should listen. That some days we are supposed to believe in signs. In wrapping one’s hand around an impossibly blue coffee mug, getting lost in branches bent by the breeze and quietly being aware of the sacred space we contain and how we are connected to everyone and everything around us, we will find the answers.
We will survive a dark and chaotic world if sometimes, we only listen.
The white-haired men from the half-circle gather their dandelions and approach the counter, pausing mid story to have their cups refilled. The girl with rose-petal hair ascends the stairs.
The man at the table pushes his phone into his shirt pocket, deposits his mug into a bin full of dirty dishes. On his way out the door he decides to return my smile.
Enjoy your day, says he.
I say a silent thank you to my empty pen.
I think I will.
Author: Cindy A. Jones
Editor: Travis May
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