the neighbourhood cafe

In a Starbucks on Cambie, a moms meeting is happening. The moms, weary and disheveled, work on knitting projects or breastfeed their infants and talk about neighbourhood issues. One has something deeper on her mind, her husband recently started taking longer hours at the office. She’s anxious. He is not so demonstrative as he’s always been, a little tighter-lipped. She is sure that she used to know him but is not so sure now, what to do.

Their kids, equally disheveled but more energetic, wear brighter clothes and rubber boots. They shout and romp around the indoor playground of the cafe. One boy has an older brother who is at home less and less. The little boy feels something from this, but doesn’t know how to consider where his feelings are from. As he grows older, he will come to know that the world is both more beautiful and more ugly than he thought before.This is a sad thing, and a happy thing, depending on your opinion.

One of the more assertive young people working behind the counter requests that the kids don’t climb on the furniture. Wiping a counter with a grey cloth, she thinks about what she’ll do after this job: go back to school or get another? The rent she pays is too high to quit before finding another job, so she is a little bit stuck.

It’s raining outside and everyone leaves their umbrellas at the door and drapes their wet coats over the backs of chairs.

Students come in the morning to settle in for the day, in skirts, tights, big sweaters. Hair wrapped in messy buns with strays falling out. They occupy space, spreading textbooks and notes and ipods and blackberries over multiple table surfaces. They allow themselves to be interrupted by constant text messages. One girl flirts with a stranger on her facebook page, enjoying the distraction from her term paper but unsure about the guy. She likes him liking her, his attention for her, but why? Does he even really like her?

Some corporate people are also meeting here, arriving within a few minutes of one another and joking about office politics. One man is distracted today, had a hard time dragging himself from his bed to this meeting even though he doesn’t live far. It’s been a few months since he moved to take this job, and he worries about being away from his young family.

They all drink different drinks: some ladies have re-committed themselves to their diets and are having skinny lattes, while others have re-committed to pleasure in life and are having whole milk mochas. One of them recently read an article in a free magazine from a health food store that said what you THINK about the food you eat is more important than the food you eat. So she thinks, life is short, and anyways real women enjoy their food. So she slurps her mocha. Mmm.

Others are people who would like to be as alone as I am, and so are sitting at tables with their computers or listening to music,everything except for being involved with what else is going on in the cafe. I am only apparently uninvolved, but only actually half involved. Only observing and thinking about my neighbour as opposed to interacting with him or her.

The odd Philipino nanny with infinite patience comes in with the double stroller ferrying caucasian kids. She hushes the little ones in her care and picks up a kilo of ground coffee for the household she works for. Older couples clad in gore-tex come in to pick up lattes and continue on their walk under a wide umbrella.

A couple of young men sit at the window, watching girls that walk by. A couple of girls walk by and look into the window, to see if there’s anyone of interest. Both young women and men (who may be just coming into the cafe to see who might be inside) come inside. Their eyes fall on each person at each table, and sometimes linger if there’s a response. The people attached to the eyes that met will then follow one anothers’ actions and exchange a couple more glances while one waits around for the coffee. Once your coffee is ready though, if you aren’t going to sit down, then what other business do you have in a coffee shop? So they will exchange a last glance before the one who came in helplessly walks out. Maybe he or she will go home and post a missed connection in the local online personals, in hopes of connecting there instead of in person.

One man with a broad back sits looking out the window and aching with all of himself, missing someone that he hasn’t met yet.

An elderly woman fills in her daily crossword puzzle and only looks up and through the window occasionally. As though just to check if everything in her world is the same as she left it when she looked down to focus on the words.

One of the kid clan that is there with their moms, a little girl, presses her wet nose against the same window further down. Just to watch the rain outside.


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