In A Coffee Shop


In a coffee shop
I stop
And sip
And watch.

A mother and her young son,
Helping him with homework.

A college girl and her laptop,
Two young men glancing,
Laughing at their imaginary scenarios,
Glancing.

A boy with earbuds inserted
Fingers a portable computer game.

An attractive woman in her forties enters,
Turning the head of a lonely man
Disinterestedly reading a newspaper
To keep from staring.

The attractive woman orders a regular coffee of the day
From the aproned young man behind the counter
With his stylishly close-cropped facial hair.
Because she is mad at her husband
She smiles at the skinny young coffee vendor
And puts a five dollar bill into his tip jar.

The mother opens a wide, brightly illustrated picture book,
“The Magic Flute,”
And tells her son about Mozart.
“Oh yeah. Mozart!” says the nine-year-old boy,
“I love that guy!”
The mother, who looks dark and Italian, smiles.
She is about twenty pounds overweight
And her light-skinned, fair-haired boy
Looks more like his father,
A happy, enthusiastic silly boy,
His arms and legs animated by the hits of the eighties
Playing in the background.

The college girl looks up from her laptop
To see if anyone is watching her,
So I try not to be noticed,
Middle-aged man that I am,
Too old to be admiring such a pretty young girl,
Not beautiful,
But pretty with the gloss of untarnished youth.
She sees the young men glancing at her
And turns her attention back to her laptop screen.
They are too young and silly.
She will know him when she sees him,
The one she is waiting for.

The lonely man, comfortable in his well-worn suit and tie,
Watches the attractive woman with the faded gold hair
Who does not need to lose weight
And imagines her whispering:
“I love you,”
But he will not speak.
He is also in his forties but still waiting,
Waiting for an invitation.

The teenage earbud boy chugs his coffee,
Picks at the acne on his chin,
Swings his backpack over one shoulder
And walks out the door.
He doesn’t want to say anything to anybody.

The dark-skinned mother says:
“This is my son who will love me forever.”

Her young son says:
“Let’s have fun all the time!”

The college girl says:
“Can you hear me O secret love? I am here.”

The lonely man is afraid to speak,
He expects disappointment.

The attractive woman says:
“My husband has fallen asleep and will not wake.
I am not ordinary.”

The two young men say:
“What a joke. People are so stupid!”

The skinny coffee vendor says:
“Why can’t I be like you? Why am I the servant?”

And I say:
“Here in this small coffee shop,
All the constellations of the universe.”

None of us say anything out loud.
One by one we finish our coffee and leave,
Pretending we are separate.


~ Russ Allison Loar
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