Coffee Shop Dreams

There’s really no one to meet here. The only person who is ever really there is the boy who her heart still beats for, long after the song is done, after the final words have been said. He’s always there, a melody inside her head that wonders, why didn’t it work?
She just wants his arms around her again but instead she sits in this coffee shop, writing the things that never happen.
There’s a trail in the background, through the half drawn shutters in the musty afternoon. There’s three girls riding horseback, and it looks like freedom. Any of it. The long manes of the horses, the smiles from under baseball caps, the taste of the rain in the air. Anywhere outside.
In here, it’s cozy and warm but she’s always trapped inside her thoughts. Her thoughts that glance at the man reading the front of the newspaper next to her and think, I wonder why he’s here? Bright orange t-shirt on a rainy Monday, at that age where he’s about to go bald but not yet, not yet. Reading a newspaper because that’s something that someone from his generation does. He looks like a talker. The kind who would sit you down like it was as normal as a mini-van full of kids and tell you about how he learned from the mistakes he made when he was young. Did he make mistakes? Did he ever shatter a BMW windshield with a baseball? Did he ever shatter a heart with words?
She’d never know because even if he was a talker, she wasn’t. She did know that the four blonde white teenagers in front of her could tell she was listening to them, half out of the fact that her table faced directly toward them and half out of the fact that they were fascinatingly, purposefully loud.
“Here ya go, knock yourself out,” the one with the hair that was obviously dyed said, handing over a crumpled five dollar bill into the silver ring studded hand of the other girl who was wearing a Hawaiian t-shirt probably only because she thought it was ironic. Like a five dollar bill was a leaf on the ground, as insignificant as yesterday’s nail polish color. Three girls and a boy, the age where they drive around and complain that life sucks but they haven’t lived enough of it to really know it yet. The woman quietly sipping her “for here” coffee out of the white mug by the corner window notices them too. There’s no wedding band on her finger and her brown eyes watch them with a longing ringed by crows feet. She wonders if the woman misses a son who went off to college or she just misses the time when having a son who went off to college and complains that life sucks was a possibility on her horizon, if going home is going back and washing dishes for a family of one to the tune of talk radio dim in the blue background.
The girl at the study table can be found at every coffee shop. It doesn’t matter what color her hair is or how her voice sounds. Her mouth moves soundlessly as she trips over the words in her rainbow highlighted textbook that would make an unabridged copy of War and Peace tremble in fear. She wonders – who was it that told her she would never be good enough?
“Tall caramel macchiato!” announces the thirty-something nose-pierced probably aspiring artist barista. A lithe brunette in a perfectly styled sweater jeans combo strides over to sweep up her drink and returns back to her perfect boyfriend and perfect life. A businessman on the phone watches them go like he watches his investments and the cars pass by through the window in his office where he thinks, where are they going, where are they going, and do I want to go there with them?
She wants something to happen. Why doesn’t anything ever happen? She goes from place to place, waiting for things to happen that never do and never will. Because the past is passed. The grocery store, a coffee shop, the laundromat, the local park. Save it for the movies.
Maybe he’d walk through the door, at that precise moment. Just a jingle of the doorbells in the corner of her eyes, a deep kind voice asking for a tall black coffee. then sitting across from her at the big rectangle table while he waits, while she tries not to flick her eyes up from the notebook but they continue to stray because seafoam eyes are her favorite and those are what fate has just dragged in front of her.
Then he’d get up to get his drink and sit down at the same seat, pull out his laptop, but a pen and a notebook too, and start writing, his handwriting a tilted announcement that maybe that constant looking for heartbeat in her life would finally turn to found, found, found. This time when his black lash lace eyes trickle over to hers they’d both stop and laugh, then in the cheesy first line of a movie he would say, “I always have to write it down before typing, too.”
Then in the way that scripted perfection flows she’d say, “I know what you mean. It makes me feel like I was born in the wrong century.” No lengthy pauses, no inside out t-shirts or stray hairs. Even though in her head she was dancing on butterfly wings, thoughts that this couldn’t be happening to someone like her because she was not carved out of perfection, but moonbeams and traffic accidents.
“Which one are you supposed to be in?” His computer hadn’t finished boot up yet, his coffee still too hot to drink, the steam rising across a face cut from the silver screen and handed a pair of glasses.
She’d tell him what century she was supposed to be in, and how it was definitely not this one, and in his eyes she’d see that century, cast in the color of the ocean. She’d see that little spark of a hope that this time this time maybe she could hold on without letting go and that pulsing longing in her chest would no longer quiver in the past but dauntlessly look into the future. Something about the gentle way he moved his hands spelled adventure in the air, the catch in his voice an excitement for things to come, things to come. Maybe this could be it. Come away with me, she’d hear his heart say, and she’d stop living waiting for something to happen but live in the happening, stepping towards a future where life held no more wondering, only wonder under a soft bed of stars and open skies under blankets in a flatbed truck.
But across the table there was no one there. No tall dark stranger who felt like home. Only the trail through the window, the notes of that same old song playing across the ceiling. And nothing ever happens.

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4 thoughts on “Coffee Shop Dreams

  1. Coffee shops do seem to somehow inspire us towards stories. It’s a strange feeling when the most poignant stories are just that — fiction — but the fact that this is such a recognizable and evocative feeling means that it’s something all humans tend to encounter in their life.

    Thanks for the poem. I’m reading it in a cozy cafe protected from the Seattle downpour outside.

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