“Yeah, yeah, I know Jean’s a kind girl. She’s sweet and all.” “But what you really mean is, she’s a bitch!”
“I haven’t seen you in a while!!!” “Come here and give me a hug.” “I missed you!”
“LUKE!!! How many times do I have to tell you NOT to talk to strangers?”
“Could we share a seat?… I’d like to share with you some good news from heaven.”
“Would you care for some dessert, Ma’am?”
The guy stared at me, waiting for a reply. He was holding a piece of cardboard that had pictures of a sundae cone and an apple pie. I couldn’t speak for a moment. I was thinking of something else. And now, I couldn’t help but stare at the shade of bright blue behind the caramel sundae.
“Maybe you’d like to try our new blueberry float. It’s very refreshing!”
I snapped out of my semi-transfixed state, looked at the floor (couldn’t help but notice the tiny splotch of ketchup on his right shoe), and then properly turned my attention to him. “I’m okay with my coffee, thanks!” He went away without another word.
I tried to remember what I was thinking about before the guy with the cardboard came. Was I thinking of the papers I needed to mark? Or a new project? Was I thinking of how to budget my money for the coming days? Was I having an internal conversation? Oh, but I felt like I was in a bubble full of conversation. But I wasn’t part of any of it.
I took a sip of my coffee. It was iced, and it was strong. I’ve been having a lot of iced coffee these past few days. It must be the stress. There’s something about my cognitive composition that seeks out coffee whenever I’m feeling bad. Coffee is your friend, it says. When there’s no one else… there’s always coffee. And also Maltesers. And Apollo.
“Yeah, Jean’s really a bitch!” A fist landed on the plastic table beside me. I hope no one was hurt. There were three girls there. They were all wearing purple shirts and dark jeans. They must be working in the spa nearby. Earlier, only two of the girls were exchanging information about Jean. This was the first I heard the third girl speak. She just confirmed that Jean was a bitch, although I didn’t really learn why.
Luke suddenly came to my table again and pressed the Tab key on my laptop. Across from me, his mother gave me an exasperated sigh. So I stared at Luke the way I stared at my five-year-old cousin whenever he misbehaved. Luke went back to his mother with a scared/guilty/suspicious look on his face.
I went back to my coffee. I swirled the ice cubes around, and sipped the last of it. Then, I packed up my laptop, checked where my wallet and keys were, and stashed them inside my bag. I looked around me again. These conversations around me were very interesting. They pulled me into so many different worlds, and I was an omniscient goddess who looked over them.
The friends were still reminiscing their days in some high school in the province. The three purple girls had stopped talking and were now in a state of awkward silence. Luke was crying to his mother. And I didn’t know where the Korean girl with a good news from heaven went.
I am free here, I said to myself. In the midst of strangers, I am free to be lonely.
Then I got up and left.
(Just trying to do this weekly writing challenge! It was indeed very challenging.)