There is a woman sitting across from me in the coffee shop. She sits on the edge of her chair, back straight, purse clutched in her hands. Her skin is dark, toffee colored, and her beautiful braids are gathered and pulled back from her slightly lined face. She is round yet petite, her clothes are designed to hide, not express. But maybe that is her expression: I do not want to be noticed.
But I do notice her. She strikes me because though she is sitting with no one, talking to no one, her face changes expressions rapidly. Her lips twitch slightly and her eyes narrow and brighten. She stares into some far off point across from her.
She is having conversations and I wonder who she is speaking to.
I have sat in this coffee shop before and been haunted by words I have and have not said. I, too, have replayed moments and wished for boldness or gentleness instead of what was burned into my memory.
I put in my ear buds (Thom Yorke) and peek at her from over my book (Emily Dickinson). Her jaw is set, her eyes are bright with tears. She must have gotten to a difficult part. But then she swallows and closes her eyes. A second later her expression is hopeful, her lips forming a most plaintive smile.
This makes me afraid of everyone else and everything they do not say. How funny, our imagination, our ability to fantasize. This person she wants to speak to is not here, but they are, kind of, in her mind. And at her whim they are pleading, or forgiving; kind and apologetic. I wonder what other people have made me say in conversation. We can make people dance like puppets, speak like poets, or act like lovers all day long in our minds. But the longer we stay there, the more harsh the reality of their free will. People are not all poets or lovers and we are not always misunderstood.
She is now nodding wisely and with relief, as though she or her mystery friend has come to some great enlightenment. In the next second however, she must remember the truth of time and consequence, because she is solemn and afraid again.