I send Joe a text message that says ‘You look so cute. Profesh Joe rocks!’ I watch from the corner of my eye to see him get it. I keep waiting and then I realize he isn’t going to get it. Of course not. He’s in a meeting. And he’s professional.

There’s a girl in the corner, purposefully facing away from everyone with her book open, legs crossed and sneaking furtive glances over her right shoulder to see who might be watching her. Teen Girl Squad strides in. They are eternally bored in their sheep fur lined boots and shoulderless sweaters and tight jeans with careful and expensive rips in them. They move as if one large life form, a mass of hormones and sadly perfect hair and lipgloss.

I notice the man sitting to the left of the door watching me again. I continue to ignore him. I watch the older couple, he with his Louie L’Amour novel and she with her newspaper, one leg up in his lap. He pats her ankle every so often and it’s comforting to witness.

The man watching me looks as if he might speak. I take a sip from my drink, set the cup on the table and take out my crochet needle and some yarn. I feel the blue and very thick yarn in my fingers, rolling it from side to side, wondering what it wants to be. A hat, I decide. They are all hats right now. Joe is nodding to the man across the table from him outside. Joe looks cute. He looks concerned and he probably really is. Programming questions make him happily involved.

The man watching me is sniffling but otherwise not bad looking. Early forties I think, but any person, male or female who is sniffling repeatedly every five seconds, has a rapidly lowering attractiveness factor and may want to rethink not bringing a hankie. Or sitting in public for long spans of time. Or looking as if they want to hit on someone. I’m annoyed and wishing I’d worn a ring on my finger today.

The youngish-mom in the seat next to me gathers her kids and assorted kid-paraphernalia. There are two children, both under five years old, and they have been climbing over her like Mount Everest wiping snot on her shoulder and saliva in her hair while she good-naturedly wrestles them back to her lap. She attempts two false starts in exiting which fail because of one action figure left behind under a chair and a red shoe wedged in a seat cushion. Her third attempt is successful and the lobby seems much less friendly with them gone.

Romeo makes a quick beeline for the recently vacated oversized chair, leans back and sets his drink on the table in between us. I see him looking at me every few seconds but ignore him. He doesn’t appear to be the sleazy type of guy – that guy is kinda fun to squelch – and I don’t want to hurt his feelings. Every time I look out the window at Joe, whose head is now directly to the right of the man next to me, the man tries to catch my eye. Finally, out of some odd magnetism that must have been pulling from his eyes to mine, I glance at him, smile, and go back to my crochet. He makes a small sound in his throat, then a tiny muffled laugh. I decide the best thing to do is to be friendly so I look up, smile again and say, ‘Sorry if I seem to be staring. My husband is right there outside (and I point) and I keep checking on him to see if his meeting is over.’ He looks where I pointed and says, ‘I see. And here I thought it was my new haircut and my son’s Axe.’ And before thinking I say, ‘Axe is truly one of the stinkiest deodorants I’ve ever smelled. Why do they wear it?’ He laughs a real laugh and says, ‘The cat died last week and I swear it was the Axe.’ I’m confused by that but since he’s checking his watch and getting up to leave, I let it go and am glad to not prolong the conversation.

Left in the lobby is an Asian couple wearing color-coordinated zip-up leisure suits with stripes down the sides. Their very tall and very glamorous daughter is wearing extreme amounts of silver and looking very overdressed for a late morning coffee. There is also a weekend-dad with the name ‘Crusty’ on the side of his coffee with his daughter who has on extremely short shorts and can pull it off because she’s young with firm legs. I like the father immensely because I assume the Crusty is an indicator of his sense of humor, a sign that he tries too hard, which every parent does from time to time. My son would find both their daughters attractive.

My coffee says ‘Nia’ on the side. My voice broke when I said my name and it hurt too much to try and correct her. Besides, Nia is kind of a great name.

A guy sneezing at one-minute intervals sits in the empty chair next to me. I say bless you the first few times and then give up. I think about joking with him that I extend to him a standing Bless You! and to consider it his every time he needs it, but I don’t. I also think about moving but the only empty chair is directly across from him and I figure I’m getting fewer germs from spray on the side of him than a full frontal attack. I think everyone in the city must be sick right now.

There is a thin, small man just outside the door that nods to everyone walking out. He’s talking to himself but trying to include everyone around him. It’s a nice gesture but it appears to creep people out. I decide to talk to him when I leave.

It looks like the meeting is going well. Joe trimmed his facial hair so he has a slight goatee with a tiny Miami Vice shadow working the sides. He calls it the Lazy Man Shave, but it suits him.

A tall woman with long blonde hair has an uncooperative two-year-old who refuses to get up. She scoots her whining child, using her booted leg, at the rate of six inches every minute until she gets to the front and orders. Then she picks up her child in one scoop and whispers, hard, in her ear. The mom’s head is shaking in tandem with her mouth opening and closing. And for the millionth time this morning I miss the kids and wish they were here. Tony would have got an Izze, probably grapefruit, Tyler would have picked a water, or better, brought his own water from the back of the car and waited patiently for us to play out our wasteful consumeristic weekend tradition. Alex usually gets a caramel frappe and Devon a Chai latte, like me, but he gets his extra hot and with extra Chai pumps like his dad. And Joe would have looked over the pastries and then decided he didn’t really want anything after all and then shared my Chai. If he was in here. But he’s out there.

A man has a leak in his drink and little drops of caramel colored coffee hit the floor creating a snowflake pattern next to his shoe. The couple next to him call his attention to it and he laughs saying, ‘I’m glad you can see that too. I wondered if I was imagining it or just having trouble swallowing.’ They all laugh and out of that comes a conversation of ‘What do you do’s and ‘Where you went to college’s. You can make a conversation with anyone if you try.

I’ve taken out my laptop to jot a few notes. My drink is lukewarm at best and the man next to me asks me if I’m a writer. Why is it so hard to say yes? I get nervous and tell him sometimes I am.

And sometimes, I am.

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  1. Being that I live in a small town I have never been able to go to a coffee shop and people watch. That is mainly because we don’t have a coffee shop we have a gas station and the people there are the same people I have seen my whole life.

    Your descriptions are beautiful and the way you were looking after Joe was so sweet.

  2. loving this, i felt like i was right there. i like writing that takes me out of my bubble. so thanks, nia for helping me out of the bubble if only for a few.

  3. That was wonderful. I would get an Izze if I was feeling flush or would bring my own water too. Also, I am a sneezer in your city too but I think it is spring allegies. My first year here and I am enjoying the sneezes. Spring allergies in February.

  4. I haven’t been reading blogs much these days, what with a two-month old around the house and all the eating and screaming, but I sarted this and couldn’t stop. One paragraph in and I was there in that coffee shop. Wonderful. You make me want to pack up the kid and head up to Starbucks.

  5. This is brilliant. I love how you pay attention to every little thing, but it doesn’t feel intrusive. It makes me wish I were in the coffee shop with you, to see what you’d observe about me.

    And why *is* is so difficult to admit your profession when it’s something creative and something you do on your own? I hate being put on the spot like that – as a photographer it feels as if I’m tooting my own horn, and I hate that!

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