People at the Coffee Shop

I’m at a coffee shop.  A woman just walked in.  I think she is meeting someone here.

She is dressed semi-professionally.  A blazer with jeans and a pair of shoes that match her black top.  She has a simple, small black purse and a leather binder.  She looks nervous.  Uncertain.

There are only a few people here other than myself.  She smiled for a moment at me, I think to see if I would reciprocate.  I did not, though I think now that it may have been more fun if I had; if I’d smiled, waved, stood and welcomed her to this coffee shop in a puzzling but confident way.

She appears to have arrived sooner than whomever she is meeting here.   They are late, I presume.  It’s five minutes past the hour and she is checking her phone.  She’s going through the papers in her binder and fiddling with things in between her glances to the door.  She’s uncomfortable.

Someone just walked in.  Another woman.  Older.  Yes.  This is her.  The smiles.  The handshakes.  They both do the thing most women do when they meet someone in this kind of setting: lean slightly back, straight elbow, chin down, non-dominating smile.

Older woman: “Hey, how are you?”

Younger: “Good, good.”

Liar.  You’re overwhelmed with nervousness.

They look like mother and daughter, but they’re not.  Unless they just met last week after having been estranged for years.  In which case maybe they’re still figuring one another out.

The younger one just offered to pay for both their drinks.  Is this her mother-in-law?  She seems eager to make a good impression.

They’d be creeped out if they knew I was narrating their interaction.  Maybe you are.  I don’t care.  I’m intrigued.

The younger one is pretty but she lacks confidence in herself, especially before this seemingly much more resolved woman.

Oh boy.  Plot twist.  Another woman just walked in.  Very gregarious.  Very extroverted.  Big hello.  She’s a hugger.  Jeans and a t-shirt.  Sneakers.  The other two are interview-ready,  but this lady, she looks like a Barb.  Or a Sue.  Very short hair.  She’s reminds me of my third-grade teacher.  She smiles a lot.  I’ll call her Pam.

The two classier-dressed ones are seated.  Pam went to the bathroom.  The two at the table are trying to interact cordially.  They don’t know each other well.  Pam is the link.  Pam is the bridge.  Pam is the one they’re both here to see.  I think Pam called this meeting, and the other two women are here to impress Pam.  But Pam is not here to impress.  She’s here to have a good time.  Pam will lighten the mood.  She’ll try to make them feel at ease.

The youngest one looks to be in her early to mid 20s.  She’s just following along.  If Pam and the other one stand, she’ll stand.  She’ll jump.  She nods agreeably.  She lives with her parents.

The middle one–I’ll call her Jenny . . . no . . . Jen–she seems unenthusiastic.  She has poor posture.  I think she’s lived through some shit.  She’s had more and better reasons to cry than this young thing at the table.  My assumption is that she thinks that she and this young woman next to her are meeting each other in a setting where they are considered peers, though she knows that they are not.  She knows she is more experienced in life and in these interactions, but she’ll play along.  She’s kind.  She and Pam will pretend to be interested in what the young girl–I’ll call her Maddie–is talking about.  They don’t care what she has to say, but they just want her to feel comfortable, which for now may only mean less uncomfortable than she is.

I want to ask them why they’re here.  I won’t because that’s odd.  It’ll interrupt what they’re here to accomplish.  Or rather, what Pam is here to accomplish.

Pam is so comfortable.  She looks like someone who is good with dogs, and not bad at softball.

I can’t see Jen.  Pam is too wide.  She’s not overweight.  She’s just, well . . . she’s in the way.

They’re looking at phone pictures.  Why?  No one seems to care about the papers Maddie brought.  Her binder is an unused place mat now.

I suppose I should let it go.  Now I’m just trying to eavesdrop from across the room.  I can’t hear what they are saying but I can see what their bodies are communicating.  Which, particularly with women, is probably more indicative of what they’re feeling than are their words.

Pam is talking.  She is presenting something.  An idea.  I don’t see tupperware.  Maddie and Jen are doing some serious agreeable head-nodding.  Maddie more than Jen.  She’s eager to please.  Eager to be liked.  Her entire upper body nods.

Jen moves her hair aside.  Smiles.  I think she would be content if Pam winked at her and acknowledged her as the more mature party in Pam’s audience.  Maybe Pam has.


I’ve lost interest.


Okay I’m back.  A few minutes have passed.  Maddie is much more comfy.  They’ve laughed.  Their smiles are less obligatory and more natural now.  Pam has achieved casual.  Maddie is cozy but she occasionally reels herself back to professional because she wants to manage her image, lest she slip and reveal that she’s a bit insecure and occasionally likes to gets high with the boy she likes.

Jen did one of those falling-tower laughs where, if she’d kept going, she would have slammed her head to the table, but because she’s drinking coffee and not tequila she was able to stop herself and bounce back up.  She looks like she’s been to a few parties though.  Slammed her laughing head on a few tables at a few bachelorette parties.

Pam talks with her hands.  Pam’s been to a few parties too, but she prefers beer to wine.  She’s out-drank a few men in her lifetime.  I think if a threat came to the door, I would not worry much about her.  She’d be okay.


The coffee shop has become more crowded.  I am now one of thirteen people in this building, and I am the only man.  There is teenage boy at the table next to mine.  He is talking to a girl.  But I am the only man here.  I think my jaw just became more pronounced.

An older man walked in.  He is meeting a woman who looks to be his daughter’s age.  They hug in a safe way.  Like family.  He is wearing sneakers and brown ankle socks.  I have never seen brown ankle socks, and if not for this writing moment I don’t think I would have taken notice.

I am still the alpha.  Whatever that’s worth.  The wolf that will not come to the door would still be my responsibility.  But this is the coffee shop and no threat will arrive.  I–the creepy observer–am probably the biggest threat to this otherwise shallow place.


An hour has passed since Maddie walked in.  They’re talking business now.  Maddie is fiddling with her pen but Pam gets her to laugh now and then.  Another woman walked in looking for her meeting partner.  She asked me if I am Pete.  I so badly wanted to say yes.

Pete is running late.  It’s ten twelve minutes past the hour.  She is pissed.  She’s dialing.


Twenty minutes past the hour.  Pete is so late.  She’s pissed.  Checking Facebook.  She’s done.  She might smile when he walks in but she doesn’t mean it.  Pete: you lose.


Jen left.  Maddie and Pam are still talking.  Pam is validating Maddie, while simultaneously demonstrating what it looks like to be a woman who is mostly content with herself.  She is not the prettiest, nor does she need to be.  Pam is fun.  Her dogs love her very much.


Pete didn’t show.  She left.  Pissed.

The shop is quieter now.  The crowd fading.  Still the alpha.  But it’s worth nothing.

Back to life…


Author: Andrew Bartosik

Not much different from you.

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