Archive

Monthly Archives: October 2011

How long can you outstay your welcome in a coffee shop? I’m sure you already know that you can do this without any purchase and not have any of the personnel bother you. You can sit outside and have a smoke, or stay inside, talk to a friend or pretend to wait for your order, or a friend, or a date who never shows up.

But what if you want to stay for a really long time? Whether you’ve got a book to read or papers to study or a laptop to do whatever business you can do with it, you will eventually need to make a purchase of at least their cheapest product—maybe a lollipop or extra syrup.

Right now, I am sitting alone in a Greenbelt coffee shop on a Friday night, and I hope you do not think I am square for hanging out with myself when everyone’s in costume celebrating Halloween tonight. It’s past ten in the evening, I can see people in line for their orders, no seats guaranteed. And here I am, sitting on one of the shop’s woven chairs with aluminum framing, one-third of my espresso pistachio biscotti left, and it’s been more than an hour since. “Ooh, her biscotti’s left alone while she’s doing something else. And look—crumbs all over—she’s made a little mess which means she must be busy or too enthralled with her other activity that she cannot even mind her food that much.” In reality though, I want to mind it more than you think, give it the attention it deserves; it’s food, for crying out loud. But as long as I plan to stay here, I cannot gobble this hard biscuit which we call biscotti.

Now that’s exactly why you cannot consume what you order in a coffee shop at a time like this. There are at least a dozen pair of eyes prying for an empty seat. It’s a tough competition—how do you stay in line AND race to that vacant spot AND leave your bag on the table to mark your territory? You need strategy and a quick response to this crisis, especially without a buddy around. If you already have a table, you are no target for this as long as you leave some food or coffee on your table. Leave your partially bitten cookie or half-eaten cheesecake on the plate. Again, make sure you have crumbs on the table to add some drama, how you’ve ignored your edibles for another. If drinking a frappuccino, make sure there’s some content left and make sure it’s in view. If it’s in a paper cup, then it won’t be a problem. Pretend to sip once in a while to dodge any doubt from unseated customers.

Bottom line is, you have immunity from being kicked out of the place as long as you have your leftovers displayed. Besides, you are only getting your money’s worth, right? You really do have every right to stay where you are, you just need to showcase your evidence if you don’t want the awkward glances that 1. look at you 2. look at the door where you can exit 3. look at the food and drink they are holding 4. look at you again.

It was almost 3 AM, and I was sitting among the disarranged monobloc chairs, and people were leaving. My hair was in a ponytail, a slight mess like it always is, strands brushing my face like I just got out of bed. Beside me was my friend. Let me describe what was in front of me: An interviewer holding his list of questions; a boom mic hanging above; the cameraman and his recording device; and the man I decided I would want to see  again after that day. His overbite smile and singular chuckle as he looked for a second to where I was sitting was enough to drown the voice of my friend who was telling me something, but I cannot remember what because I was not listening. My nervous self unknowingly smiled back.

Three months passed, and the plot which I primed myself to be familiar with has come to the inevitable point. I was careful with my heart, knowing sweet words were things he has said to those he might have loved or fucked. I made certain that his whispers did not mean too much to me, but eventually the words that came in one ear and out the other took a different direction and entered my bloodstream to affect me like any substance can. I was a seventeen-year-old again, turning the apple and refusing to see what was rotting here and there; I made sure the fresh crisp peel was all I can see. And I took a bite. I allowed myself to be special to someone again. It was a risk I was willing to take on again—letting a new person into my life, like one would open a door for a stranger to step into one’s home, going beyond the doormat that says welcome. I wanted to ask him who he is, to know who he is, to see who I am, but I held back from speaking my soul out of fear, out of logical excuses of the mind.

There were things I wanted to say—how I loved his eyelashes that pointed down, making his eyes look sad, delicate, but beautiful; that a month before his birthday I was already excited to get him a present, to write him a letter, to see him again and tell him how happy I am to have him around, to invite him to my home, curl up and talk for hours. But I only exist in one of the parallel universes, and to where I belong, he has decided to set me aside like a task and end a budding connection with an unapologetic lie—the funniest part that came with the twinge in the organ under my left ribcage.  And because the right time I was waiting for was not to come anyway, these words are only meant to be written, and maybe shared, but never spoken.