March 16, 2007

Lucky Guys

It’s not that I spend much time in cafes, it’s that I’d like to. In cafes the faces show enough to be fascinating and hide enough to be mysterious. I like to hear pairs of women gush about their lovers and gripe about their work –- or is it the other way around? –- and I wonder what the solitary people, sitting for hours with an empty cup, write in their little notebooks. I like to look at the faces of people sipping coffee and imagine what they’re escaping from, what they’re girding up their courage for, what nemeses they’re silently shouting down. It’s like looking into a neighbor's window, but with spoons clinking and steam hissing and a CD playing jazz.

The other day in the Café M_____ I watched a tall, balding man in his forties enter with a startlingly pretty young woman. How did he get to have her, and I’m sitting here alone? She was slim and brunette, her long hair feathered at the tips, a natural brown-eyed beauty wearing blue jeans and a black smock shirt, and meanwhile he was wearing a goofy red and white plaid.

But if you keep looking you notice more. She wasn’t looking at him. She followed like a needle following a magnet, but her eyes searched elsewhere as if looking for a friend, almost as if she didn’t want to be seen next to him.…

So the balding guy was her father. (Not her professor; they would have been talking.)

I relaxed. There was no threat to my self-esteem. Guys like that don’t get girls like her after all, I said to myself. I’m not behind him in the contest.

I took a sip of decaf French roast. The door opened again, and here came another odd couple, in fact they were the same kind, an unprepossessing older man and a very pretty younger woman…and this time they were holding hands and couldn’t take their eyes off each other.

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