The coffee shop is full of small round tables. Most are vacant on the frigid sub-zero morning. Even the draw of fresh brewed steaming-hot coffee is not enough to pull many people out of their beds on this bitter morning. The comforting and invigorating smell of brewing coffee fills the air.
Two women sit at a table near the center of the seating area. They braved the cold to share each other’s company, something they look forward to each week. Their faces are painted with exhaustion. They’re emotionally drawn and quartered. Not that they ever complain, but they need this weekly break from husbands, children, work, and numerous responsibilities. A short respite from life as they know it.
When they are able to have time alone, they choose to spend the fleeting moments with each other. They share the time over a cup of coffee or tea, whichever strikes their mood. These meetings are their escape. They’re anonymous here. The endless demands stop for just a short time. The needs of others vaporize for a few minutes. Sometimes they chat, these friends of countless years. Sometimes they’re quiet, finding comfort in the mere presence of the other.
Without a word they can sense how the other feels, what they need at the moment, support, or simply quiet escape. They can read each other’s expressions, or flick of their hair, or the way a hand rests on the table, and know exactly what it means. It’s an unconscious sign language that’s evolved over a few decades of friendship.
Today they’ve been mostly silent, choosing to soak up the peace. The shop is quiet except for the slight murmur of two employees talking behind the counter. Their peace is broken when a balding middle-aged man approaches their table. He has papers in his hands and tentatively holds one out between the women. His discomfort is apparent as he explains that the paper is a project for his Creative Writing class. He explains that they have no obligation to read it, and that he’s not selling anything. They can use it as a coaster for their cups, or to dispose of a piece of gum, or crumple it up and use it as a cheap cat toy. Neither of them reach for it. He sets it down, thanks them for their time, and walks away. Their eyes meet, relieved that the uninvited guest has gone away.
I thank you for your time. I’m not selling anything, this is an obligation-free handout. This momentary diversion from your day is a meta-fiction writing project for my Creative Writing class final. Thanks again for spending your time reading my words.