I just walked into the coffee shop—the same one where I go every day—to write. But it's hard. I get distracted. Distracted by the same people who are here every day.
There's the man in his 50s who seems to know everyone. He'll walk from table to table and just sit with people. Not usually talking. Just sitting with them. No one ever objects to this. I don't know the social dynamic. I did once see him give a monologue to one man sitting in the corner of the room. He recited a number of jokes—most of them misogynistic or homophobic. None of them even remotely funny. The delivery was pretty bad, too. His audience of one was laughing so hard he was having trouble breathing. At the end of the presentation, the friend said, "dude. You should pursue standup comedy."
It was the worst advice I've ever heard.
There's an elderly woman with significant mental health issues. She's always here as well. She walks around talking to or at people. She's always smiling. Sometimes she stands in the middle of the room and has an imaginary conversation with someone she seems to see standing just in front of her. Everyone always appears to be very kind and gentle with this woman, and I regularly see people give her food or drinks for free.
Two bearded men sit in one corner. One of them on his laptop, typing away. The other, just lounging across from him, doing nothing. I mean nothing. Not reading. Not scrolling through his phone. Not talking. Just sitting. Just enjoying the company, I guess.
A Bible study group forms here every day. It's six women who appear to be more on the fundamentalist end of the spectrum. One of the women seems to be in charge. She monopolizes the conversation. At one point, every day, she'll ask each of the women to go around the circle and list one miracle they've seen in the last 24 hours and tell about one recent time they "witnessed" to someone who needed to hear it. I try not to listen—really. But they are loud and the stories are fascinating. One of the women recently realized her bus driver couldn't just walk away so she rode around town witnessing to him. Oh how I wish I had been on that bus.
Skylar texted me once a couple of years ago: "I just saw a group of people doing Bible study at a coffee shop. I don't get it. Are they preparing for a final or something?"
His question didn't come from a place of mockery. The concept of Bible study is just so foreign to him he couldn't imagine any other possible endgame than academic evaluation.
"Probably not," I told him. "Some people are just into that."
There's an Italian family I see here at least once a week. They sit at the large table in the very center of the room and argue in Italian. At least, I think they're arguing. I never can tell. They all order different drinks and then just pass them around the table, rotating so everyone gets to have a little of everything. I love this.
They're all just here, every one of the regulars, hanging out, every day. Do they not have jobs? Do they not have lives outside of this place? I wonder this all the time as I stare at them instead of doing what I came to do—write.
After a while I'll pack up my laptop, which I just used to gossip on the internet about them.
I'll toss out my latte cup, now empty.
And I'll walk out the front door, past a dozen or so people—the ones without lives or jobs. The same ones who might all be wondering what's the deal with the loner who sits in the corner, typing away, at this coffee shop.