Sunday, July 23, 2006

Scenes from a cafe

The cafe is crowded. There is a steady stream of people moving in and out, coming for their coffee, their croissants. They're on different paths, each of them moving towards something, but for this brief moment, they have something in common. And for each of them, there is a story.

A woman and her daughter sitting outside. She is late twenties, the girl four or five. Both of them the same shade of cornsilk blonde, the same brown skin. The little girl kneels in her chair, watching her mother eat, talking, chattering in the way that children do. Mom wears a gray t-shirt, glasses, sneakers, no make-up. She's beyond make-up, nice clothes. Appearances are no longer a necessity. She looks tired, harried; her mind is somewhere else. She doesn't hear her daughter talking. She is thinking of bills that need to be paid, errands that need to be run, fixing the car, cleaning the house. She is thinking of a girl she used to know, another version of herself, and she is wondering what happened to her.

An older couple, well-dressed. Married for years, decades. He wears the standard uniform: button-down shirt, khakis, black socks, gold watch. A retirement gift, perhaps. She's dressed all in white; white pants, white blouse, over a blue and white striped shirt. Her hair is cut short, a salt-and-pepper gray that might have been brown once, or red. Their hands are spotted, veiny, fragile. They have sons and daughters they've been good parents to. He's been to war and come back to her; she's taken care of him when he was sick. She knows all of his oddities, his habits. She had dreams once, until this life became her reality. They eat slowly, sparingly, exchanging only a few words. All these years and finally, they've run out of things to say.

A young man and an older woman who can only be his mother. She's in her sixties, gray hair pulled into a neat bun, glasses, white cardigan. Tiny purple veins creeping out around her eyes like bruises. He's late 30s, early 40s, her only son, maybe. The father, dead or disappeared by now. Their conversation is stilted, awkward. He is doing his duty, taking his mother out to lunch. Making up for the mistakes of his youth, for some earlier disappointment. This time together is his way of an apology, although neither of them will acknowledge what it is he is sorry for. When they say goodbye, he puts a hand on her back and she leans up to kiss him on the cheek. They go in separate directions, he to the thick of his life, she to the end of hers.

And then, a girl, alone, sitting in a corner, away from the crowd. Blonde hair, blue t-shirt, BREVARD spelled out across the front in block letters. There is a notebook on the table in front of her and she's slowly filling it with words. Every so often she looks up, her eyes moving across the faces of the people around her. She's studying them, watching them, and always thinking, thinking, thinking. She wonders if anyone will notice, if they will come to ask her what she's staring at, or worse, what it is she's writing. When someone looks in her direction, she automatically looks away, training her eyes back to the page, the words. She wants to observe, not engage; she prefers to study the human condition rather than actively participate. All of these people are strangers to her but she knows them just the same. She is here, collecting faces, collecting lives, collecting people. She is looking for stories but in the end, what she hopes to find most is truth.


Blogger Lex Ham Rand said...

Wonderful post - writer as observer, collector, anthropologist, empath. I like that she is "looking for stories" but hoping to find truth. I could instantly picture the folks in each scene.

Brevard, eh? That's pretty country in western NC. Near where all the wealthy Charlestonians used to go in the summer to escape the wilting low country heat.

7/24/2006 6:40 AM  
Blogger chiefbiscuit said...

A great post!

7/24/2006 6:50 AM  
Blogger jason evans said...

That was really beautiful, Rebecca. One of the best things I've read in a while.

7/24/2006 9:05 AM  
Anonymous bookfraud said...

nice. very nice. i felt i was in that cafe with the blonde-haired girl scribbling in her notebook. all good writers are observers, and you passed the test.

7/24/2006 9:17 AM  
Anonymous Jim said...

Sounds about right. One of my favorite things to do is simply observe people. There's always fodder for a great story there.

7/24/2006 10:03 AM  
Blogger Quinn said...

I'm so curious to eavesdrop on the conversations - or lack of conversations that you've hinted at here.

7/24/2006 1:17 PM  
Blogger Writing Blind said...

Rand, I can't lie. It is hot as hell here right now. I've been dreaming of snowbanks lately.

I'm glad everyone liked it. This is just another one of those random things that came out of my journal. I think one of these days I'm going to get a reputation as a stalker. Don't worry, I wouldn't stalk any of you. Unless you asked me nicely. :P

7/24/2006 1:24 PM  
Blogger JimmyJames said...

An excellent post. I enjoy your writing style, and as a consulation it is also hot here in the "igloo" land of 10,000 lakes.

7/24/2006 2:10 PM  
Blogger Orange Blossom Goddess (aka Heather) said...

Ditto as to what Jason said.

7/24/2006 3:59 PM  
Blogger Writing Blind said...

Welcome, Jimmy. And Heather, thank you. I'm glad you liked it.

7/24/2006 9:47 PM  
Blogger Southern Writer said...

You have a gorgeous voice. I could read your stuff all night.

7/31/2006 11:56 PM  
Blogger Writing Blind said...

Be careful. I might put you to sleep. :)

7/31/2006 11:57 PM  

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