The Corner of Concentration

I was just settling into place, unpacking my laptop and stuff at the coffee shop corner community table. (Saint Seata had rewarded me again — thank you, Saint Seata. Now, if the muses will cooperate (yeah, they’re even required when editing and revising.)

A young woman approached. “Are you expecting someone else or saving these seats?”

“No, join me.” I indicate the rest of the table.

“Thank you. I like working at this table.” She’s unpacking her computer as she speaks. “I get a lot of work done here and it has a plug.”

Yeah, people call it a plug, but it’s an outlet, innit? Whatever; she’s young. I reply, “Yes, I notice that people who work in this corner tend to be focused. I call it the corner of concentration.”

“The corner of concentration, I like that,” she says with laughter. “You have a good vibe. I like it.” Before I can do anything more than smile, she says, “I’m a writer.”

“What are you writing?” I ask.

“A cookbook.”

“Oh, cool.”

“It’s for women and will have recipes for women to help them manage their energy for different situations.”

“Sounds like an interesting idea. Good luck.”

“Thanks. What’re you doing in the corner of concentration?”

“I’m a writer, too.”

“Oh, what do you write?”

“I’m working on a novel.”

“Is it fiction?”

Isn’t a novel by definition a work of fiction, I don’t say, because I’m non-confrontational and I don’t want to spoil my good vibe. “Yes.”

“What’s it about?”

“It’s a speculative novel about life and memories.”

“Interesting. I think I want to write a novel someday.”

She goes off to get her coffee. I sit down, take my first sip, and settle in.

Time to write like crazy, one more time.

The Flirting

He approached the common table. Two young women were at one end. As they looked at him, he asked, “Do you mind if I occupy the other end?”

“No,” one said. Gesturing to a chair that was pulled out, she said, “Not at all. We already pulled out a chair for you.”

The other woman said, “We were just getting ready to go, anyway.”

Nodding as he began unpacking his gear, he said, “So you saw me coming, pulled out a chair, and prepared to go?”

Their laughter made him smile.

Sunday’s Theme Music

This song, “Goodbye Stranger”, arrived in the stream after watching people at the coffee shop and on the streets, and inadvertently eavesdropping (they speak, I have ears…it happens).

A woman regularly brings her dog into the coffee shop. She usually sits back by the community table, where I like to work when I can. Her dog is often a cause for conversations with others. So I’ve learned that her dog is a rescue from an animal hoarding situation, that she’s had to work with him, that his name is Atlas, that he does much better now, but that other dogs’ barking makes him nervous, that he is her service dog. I’ve learned others had dogs like him, or saved from similar situations. He’s often compared to a Ridgeback but he isn’t one, not a true Ridgeback, she says.

But I’ve never heard her name, or why she needs a service dog, nor why she is bald. She wears dark glasses, but she watches people, back from her space by the wall, with her service dog beside her…

I’ve decided that I don’t want coffee shop friendships. I’m there to work. Cruel of me, innit? So I keep myself to myself, but as I leave each time, I feel her eyes watch me, and imagine I turn my head and say, “Goodbye, stranger.”

But I don’t. It has caused the 1979 Supertramp song to find itself in my stream.


The Competition

I always interact with the Boulevard baristas. Intelligent, personable, charming, they seem to enjoy it as well. This isn’t limited to me; they interact with everyone. After all, they do get rewarded with tips. The interactions are about snippets from personal activities and lives but also about the drinks. They get serious about making the drinks, which serves me well, because I’m serious about drinking my coffee, especially my writing mochas.

As part of our daily rituals, I often admire their latte art. They typically fill my drink to the brim, forcing me to slurp some away before walking lest I spill some of it on the way back to the table, so I comment about its taste. They’ve come to wait for those comments, and some of them are competing to see who makes the best-tasting drink, and who has the best art.

I didn’t know how serious this had become until I made a comment to Meghan about three weeks ago. “I think your drink tastes the best,” I said, “but Lexi has the best art.”

Meghan responded, “I make your mocha different. I put the cocoa directly in the steamed milk at the bottom.” Chrissy stopped what she was doing and leaned in to listen. “And I add a lot of cocoa powder because I know how much you like it. I can make better art but I’m being lazy.”

That changed immediately. Her drinks started sporting more serious latte art – flowers, trees, and hearts. Lexi also heightened her efforts, along with Chrissy and Chelsea. Madi is still learning it, something we both acknowledge, and often covers her efforts up with extra cocoa powder (which I mind not at all). Sam, ironically an art student whose wonderful water colors are now on display in the coffee shop, is also still learning latte art. Allison, the owner, doesn’t try.

But Meghan raised her game the other day. After calling my drink out, she waited for me to pick it up. “Look at what I did. Do you see it?”

I looked into the cup and laughed; she’d spelled out my name above a daisy. “Wow,” I said. “You’ve upped your game.”

Eyes bright and smiling big, Meghan nodded. “I have upped my game. You have to tell Lexi that I upped my game. But don’t tell her how. I want her to have to ask me.”

To be continued, I think….


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