I’ve written too often of the syrupy sweetness of summer’s dewy dawns. The grassy smells, sticky sun, and erotic breezes eat up my poetic language easily. I’ve written less about the stormy, humid, oxygen sucking days where the temperatures rage between drop dead cold and sizzling egg; the clouds circling like vultures about to attack, and the crisp natural electric waves that cause tension of the jaw. I’ve been caught now, and for the past three days, in this current of tension between hot and cold.
I think about Cary- how I shocked him recently, showing up as uninvited as a natural disaster. I think about chronic singleness and how and why it occurs. I come to the conclusion that chronic singleness is a sign of fierce independence and bi-polar apathy/obsession. I’ve become accustomed to independent living and know nothing else. I find romantic/sexual interest in other humans rare and am often apathetic to it until I am not and then become obsessive with it, due to its rarity, and try to hold on to and squeeze it until it dies in my hands.
The man next to me sneezes with the force of a volcano and spews his snot lava all over the table. I shudder in germaphobic horror. A child screams a few feet away as their mother attempts to drag them out the door. A woman two tables over explains to her friend in an overly animated fashion how the man she is dating is a complete, and total idiot. She explains it over and over; apparently convinced her friend is also incapable of comprehending simply stated opinions.
I check the battery on my computer and notice I’m at 13% as a blond, tan, middle-aged woman comes to commandeer the last open electric plug for her iPhone. “Do you mind?” She asks the overweight, bald, middle-aged man beside me. “No, go for it.” He replies, much too excited for such a mundane request. I can practically hear the fapping commence. I close my eyes and squeeze the back of my neck with my hand, trying to release the tension in my jaw and between my temples and around my eyes. I sip on my iced coffee and try to make the dehydrated feeling in my mouth go away. Neither action achieves the desired result. I sigh.
The crowd has become a nuisance much quicker than I thought it would, it’s time to go home. A woman in sweaty gym clothes is looking around, walking from table to table. She stops at an open chair and asks the woman at the table if she can sit there. The woman at the table says that the seat is occupied; she is waiting for someone. The standing woman renews her search and finds the small table next to me unoccupied. She slides in the cramped bench seat and nibbles on a small pastry. She has no book; her phone, if she has it with her, is tucked away in some hidden gym-clothes pocket. She sips her coffee and stares out in silence. I feel a sudden, inexplicable urge to say hello.
I stop typing.
“How’s it going?” I ask, glancing her way.
She laughs, “Fine. Just people watching. Sorry.”
I don’t know why she apologizes, but I find it endearing how considerate she is; that she considers her silently sitting next to me may be a distraction.
“No. You’re fine.”
“My son is looking at books. He can look at books all day long.”
“How old is your son?”
“I have two. The one that is with me here is Ethan. He’s eleven.”
“Oh. That’s nice.”
I turn back to my computer and pretend to work. I don’t want her to feel like she has to keep talking, but I find I am enjoying it. The conversation comes easy. There is no tension or awkwardness.
“I like your hair.” She says of my milk-braids.
“Are you from around here?”
“Sort of. I went to high school nearby. Melby? Do you know it?”
“Oh yeah. My friend went there. What year did you graduate?”
“Uh, 2004? I think. I’m not good with time.”
“Her names Mallory? Mallory Knight? I think she is a few years older than you.”
I shake my head that I don’t know her.
“After that I went to school in Maine and then lived in San Francisco for the last 6 years. What about you? Are you from here?”
“Yup. Lived here all my life.”
“You like it?”
“It’s a good place to raise kids. I’d like to live some place else, maybe Colorado- I like to be active, I like the outdoors- maybe when the kids are grown. So, maybe in 10 years.”
I smile. It’s weird. Normally when Mom’s talk about their kids it’s just not that relatable to me, their abdicated selflessness. She was different though, maybe because my first impression of her was as a woman alone, like me. Or maybe it was her quiet, calm nature; how content she was just to sit there and observe our fellow humans reacting to their self-created chaos.
“So, what do you do?” She asks.
“I’m an actress and writer.”
“Oh? Have you done anything locally?”
“Yeah, this month actually I’ll be performing at the show at the University.”
“I was a drama major there when I first started.”
“Yeah. I loved it, but eventually I just felt like I had to take a more practical career path so I went into advertising.”
Most of the time when people say things like that it sounds condescending- it didn’t sound condescending from her. I could tell she was speaking only about her personal experience and not making a judgment on mine. I wanted to ask her about her career in advertising.
“My kids are into theatre. And my boyfriend does improv. So, I’m still around it a lot.” She continued.
Her son, a nerdy but sweet looking blond haired boy with glasses, comes up to us with a large book in his hands.
“Look, Mom.” He says, showing it to her.
“Oh, that’s cool.” She says and then turns to me, “I’m Christy. This is Ethan. What’s your name?”
“Emily.” I say, “Hi Ethan.”
“Hi,” he says quickly and then turns his attention back to his Mom. “Can you help me with this? I only have $20.”
“Will it count for your reading assignment?” she asks.
“Okay. You want anything else? You want to go to the used bookstore after this?”
He shakes his head no.
“Alright,” she looks back to me, “It was nice meeting you.”
“What show are you doing at the University?” she asks.
“The Children,” I say.
“I’ll have to get a ticket,” she says and then turns and leaves, her hand tenderly resting on her son’s back.
I take in and let out a refreshing deep breath as I watch them walk out to the parking lot. The café is starting to thin and my headache is easing. What a nice, simple moment of connection, I think. In our short interaction I found myself appreciating many of her traits. She was observational, considerate, complimentary, inquisitive, honest, compassionate, loving, and tender. In that small moment with a passing stranger I had found the meditative medium between hot and cold. It was the cool, easy calm of nothing to gain and nothing to lose, just kindness and conversation for their own sake, two passing souls sharing time, not trying to be anything or anyone to each other but company.