I come in to the warmth of the smell of coffee and sugar. I sit down and breathe and I think Oh humanity.
It's a blind date, I think. His leg pumps up and down with his nerves while he lifts his mug. He says something she seems to be confused by and so she says something about his priorities. It's a joke, but he swallows the lump in his throat while the heat rises to his face and his leg bounces faster with his fake laugh.
There's an awkward silence and then she asks how big his family is. They small talk.
A man tries to hand off his newspaper to someone walking by, he says I'm done, it's yours. She asks which paper it is and hands it back quickly when he answers. She says, I already read that one and walks away without a no thank you. He looks defeated, his kind gesture slighted, the heat in his cheeks.
He's trying to speak over the shrill sound of the steamer and right when the sound stops he says the word sobriety. His wife shushes him and looks around, checking for ears with the heat in her cheeks. I dart my eyes and inside I say, that's part of the problem.
A song plays,
And all we are, we are.
And every day is the start of something beautiful.
And in the end nothing stays the same.
She has folders and papers clipped together in piles and a large iced coffee. She looks worn, tired to the bone with her eyes on the words on her laptop, never looking up. She's think think thinking, unaware. Her phone rings and she makes it quick, eyes to the screen. She's driven with a passion for something, like emotion's heat to the cheeks.
I start to think about something from earlier in the day, about her, and I drink my tea. I think about the way she caught up with me in the parking lot. How she thanked me for some careful and unsure words I had spoken moments before, and then I thanked her for thanking me. I gave the credit to the teachers in my life for the words I shared because I can't claim them as mine. I shuffled, eyes darting, swallowing the lump in my throat, feeling the heat rising in my cheeks. She shoved something toward me and said here's an envelope. I looked down to see her name and number and felt the grace in the moment. She said she's been sober for 25 years and I answered with January 20th. We both stood there in the unity of it, and it was good.
His leg is still bouncing, but less and she's sitting on her hands. They smile a shy smile of new and she's looking right at him with a beam of light in her eyes. The heat rises to their cheeks and they glow.
A man and his grown son sit down at the table where the shushing woman and her husband once were. Dad says do you want some of this and they share a dessert. His son listens and listens while his Dad talks and talks about his health, his blood sugar, while eating dessert. The son tries gently to persuade his father to watch what he eats. I know, his Dad says while the heat rises to his cheeks and they laugh like they understand each other. A loud chuckle-soft chuckle-loud chuckle-sigh, the laugh that men share.
Two women sit together at a tall table, looking like they might tip over with intensity. They are telling their stories, the things that mean the most, and listening like women do. They are comfortable and understood and their cheeks stay the soft red warm of acceptance.
The heat rises and it reveals
and we are caught.
We're all the same.
Blushing with our pain and joy
and sharing it,
our hearts rising up and showing themselves
if not on our sleeves,
then in our faces.