As I sip my Basil Raspberry Lemonade in this cafe, a couple sits at the table in front of me.
It's fascinating to see a couple out in public sitting together at a table and rather than address each other, they busy themselves in newspapers. Are they really together or just sharing a space in public?
Who am I to question these people when I myself am here just to say hi and possibly flirt with one of the wait staff because she's a friend and said I should stop by. I'm sitting alone at a table as she serves this couple next to me. We're all in the same room physically, but socially in our own worlds.
Oh wait, I think the girl at the table said something. I can tell from her accent that she's from Australia. It's thick. There, a conversation. Brief, with some laughter and anger, and already over. Back to the paper for both of them. His whole body is turned away from her, off to the side of the table to better accommodate the newspaper over his lap. He's more open to the rest of the strangers in the cafe than to the person he's sitting with. The news of strangers lives trump what is more present. How accessible is news written down by, from and about strangers when someone you know who is alive sits right there beside you?
I take a sip of my lemonade.
Movement. He gets up and grabs some sugar packets from the counter. In the moment he sits down he's unwittingly opened himself up for conversation. After a few seconds I realize they're talking about the news stories they've read and not about the details of their own lives. They talk about the outside world as if there is no news of their own lives, only what they read. Have they grown tired of each other, run out of themselves, or worse-walled up parts of themselves they refuse to share so they fill that space with other people's stories?
I take another sip from my lemonade. I'm just attempting to look deep and intriguing by writing furiously on a sheet of college ruled notebook paper in the black folder I carry in my backback, which is sitting on the chair across from me, showing how my mind is so taken by my work I can't allow for the distraction of another person at my own table. I won't forget to occasionally check my phone between glances at the girl who invited me to visit her work in the first place.
Life smiles at you in the oddest ways. Sometimes it's just having a laugh at your expense. Other times its smiling because it knows what's going to happen next. Either way I suggest smiling back. It makes you look less lost.
Back to reading the news. Page A2 is more intriguing than an attractive person across the table. She read something that surprised her and shared it with him. The conversation was brief and they are back in their papers to consume the news.
How much past do humans share? Is it more than our future?
I don't think I've ever been in a relationship long enough to just read together. If we're in the same room I feel the need to share. Something. When learning to drive, my dad told me "when you're driving on the road, you're driving on the road. You're not at the party you're driving to, you're not with your friends last night, your mind must be where you're at-driving on the road." When I'm alone I often drift to other lands, but when I'm with someone I care about, it's difficult for me to escape mentally somewhere else for long. I still do it, but the gravitational pull of the other always brings me back. Maybe that kind of long-term relationship perspective is not one I want.
Time for the bill. Papers down, heads up. Chatter. He drops his card and heads outside to smoke. He stands on the other side of the window right next to the table. He fake punches at her outside the glass dividing them and walks away to light his cigarette.
She is in her phone. He stares at the front page of the Wall Street Journal dispenser outside, heads back to the window to glance at the LA Weekly sitting on my side of the glass. He'd grab it if he could. He reads the sandwich board outside and paces about, finishing his cigarette. I'm sure in his pacing he read the bus bench ad for a realty company. He sees that my friend finished charging his card and returned it to his table. He comes in, signs the bill and asks the woman "ready?" without sitting down. As she stands up she asks "grab the paper?" which he does, and they walk out the door.
Left behind are used cups, the signed check, a stack of ads from the paper and me. Still alone at my table with my words and lined paper. Furiously writing down the story of the people I watched as I drank my Basil raspberry lemonade.
I pay my friend, smile and leave to walk down the road back to my apartment.