Alone in the coffee shop

Am I waiting for someone else? If not, I am taking up space. If they leave it long enough perhaps I will get up and leave and they can give the table to someone else a duo, a two-some. Not a lonesome. I look at my phone. I look at the menu. I am not waiting for anybody. I will not leave. It is a battle of wills…read more 

I am sitting in the coffee shop. Just me. Alone. At a table for two. They are very busy. I can see, it has been noted. They keep looking at me. Am I waiting for someone else? If not, I am taking up space. If they leave it long enough perhaps I will get up and leave and they can give the table to someone else a duo, a two-some. Not a lonesome. I look at my phone. I look at the menu. I am not waiting for anybody. I will not leave. It is a battle of wills.

They serve those people first, that couple that had to squeeze onto that table in the corner when this one has more space. Why didn’t I sit at that one? That table is the one no one really wants. That table is probably made for people who are alone.

They sit there scrunched into a corner, on a table meant for one. She is pretty, well made up-maybe not pretty without all the help. He is rugged, handsome, proud to go out with someone who can use makeup to improve themselves that much. Lets just call it considerably improved for her sake. I notice his shoes, they are brown. No, those are what you call tan- tan shoes, fur lined. Fur popping out over the top. The right shoes for snow. He is Mr Right shoes for snow. Maybe he even knew snow was coming and bought them especially. They are clean and shiny, like he has walked from the car to the coffee shop but in a very masculine way. A swagger. He has swaggered here. You can see him in the car park, pressing the button on the car key very hard. Deliberate. Manly. Lock those doors. Get over yourself it’s just a car key. I want to say that out loud but I don’t, because who knows if that happened, perhaps he drives a Citroen. All that machismo and still drinking a soy latte. It’s a miracle he isn’t wearing aviator sunglasses.

My boots are old, tatty, holed and worn through-the wrong shoes for snow. Hers are grey, with some tassel ties and speak of effortless class and elegance. Just not sure which class or what level of elegance. Higher than mine though. They match her jumper. I match nothing. Nothing I wear matches me. But I still have a better table. I have the table they want. I have the sort of table a tan shoe, grey boot, soy latte couple should have. And I am not giving it up.

Another couple stand in the door waiting, as if I should leave. I will not leave, if they don’t serve me soon I will make a scene, but I will not leave. This is the problem with real cafes over virtual ones-you can’t easily add tables in ‘manual cafes’. You can’t just hit ‘tab’ and double the size. But I don’t like being on my own in VR. I don’t think its as safe as people say. I think they might be sucking out my brain. Here in a real café no one knows anything about my brain. I could be thinking anything and probably I am.

I sit firmly on this chair. Its like I am attached to it. I am staying on this chair. This is my table. I will have coffee here. I will not be cowed. The waitress finally comes over. She does not make eye contact. I do not make eye contact. Neither of us is the winner. Yet. I order. I spend time on each word as if she is not quite up to taking my order. As if she might not understand what I am saying. It is a game of power and I have the table. I end with ‘Please’. That surprised her. She thought I would be grumpier on account of being alone and speaking slowly. But I am polite. I smile.  I am triumphant. She turns and walks away as if nothing has happened. But it has happened. I have kept the table and the couple by the door must wait and the two over there in the corner must huddle into the wall to eat their oversized meals and their funny soy coffees in their perfect shoes.

I sit there reading a book, a book written in French. Ha. Another victory. I can’t speak French. I don’t speak any French except the French I have learned with the free app on my phone, which is 424 words, which is almost none at all because whilst I recognise those words as French I barely know what they mean. And I have no idea how to say them.

I sit there reading a book written in French but I am just looking at the pages, hoping it seeps in. I think that even though my clothes don’t match, the French book makes me more sophisticated than grey boot woman and tan shoe man. Their shoes are right for the snow but they have no French books on their table as they scrape their elbows on the wall eating their farty baked beans breakfast. Crumpled up in that tiny corner at the tiny corner table. I luxuriate in the vast expanse of table before me. I know they aren’t looking but I am sure they know. Everyone knows. I have this table. This table is for me alone. And it has two chairs, count them, two chairs.

I have this table and it is mine. The coffee comes and the tea cake-it is slightly burned –should I send it back? Is it deliberately burned? She apologises for the delay but not the burned-ness. What should I do? Do I mention they are burned? Plus they are small. These are hot cross buns really, not tea cakes. Is that deliberate? It is a game I cannot win. ‘Pick your battles’, that is good advice. I ponder for a moment. Thinking on my chair, that is what I am good at. Let this one go. Its not worth it. You have the table, you have space. I let it go. Perhaps I will take more time and order a second coffee except. The coffee is abysmal. It is always abysmal but I like the ambience here. Although it is missing ambience today because there are so many people. The waiting couple have gone now. I smile. I have the table. It is mine.

I eat tea cake. I sip coffee. Grey boot is laughing. Tan shoe is smiling. They are happy. Squished into a corner. I could not be happy in that corner. Perhaps I should do my eye brows like her. Would tan shoe man notice me if my eye brows were like hers. Do you suppose he likes her for her eyebrows. Do you suppose he likes her at all? Maybe not. Maybe they are breaking up. I finish my tea cake. I sip my coffee. There is no hurry. I have the table. It is mine.

I notice the hair of the woman in front of me. It is grey with pink through it. She is stylish too, but the woman with her. She is not a style queen, reddish hair and a blue top, with a hideously over done face. But that pink hair, I love that. I might leave when they leave so I can tell her. But I might not. I didn’t come here to spread joy. You can over-joy you know. I look at the spacious table before me, at the free chair, I don’t need to spread joy. My presence here is disrupting the natural order of things. I like her hair but I don’t want her to see my boots

There is another table free now. Another couple come in. An old woman and her son. Maybe her son. Maybe her lover. You never know. He goes to the bathroom. She sits down. She has a purple hat. It is knitted. I have a blue hat. I have had it for 20 years. It is a ‘gnarly dude’ hat. Which is not a thing, it always reminds me of mutant ninja turtles. It makes me happy. I think of turtles, mostly ninja ones when I put it on. Hats that make you think of turtles –hats don’t come better than that. Ninja turtles are such a good idea. We should have more ninja animals. All of these thought run through my head as I take up space at this table. I will not be hurried. This table is mine.

Every so often the staff glance at me as if to see if I am finishing. Then this table that has one person can be used as a table for two people. Never mind that the two that just came in are sitting at a table for four. That it seems is acceptable. It’s a double standard-a pun, but true nonetheless. They are wasting two seats and I am only wasting one, nonetheless they will be served promptly. They are not looked down on, there will be no apology to them for the time it has taken to get things. They are different to me. They are together. I am the worst of all things. I am alone. At a table for two. I see the waitress look at them, she is thinking what I am thinking. The woman with the pink hair is getting up to leave. I am not getting up to leave. Not yet. I will not be telling her how nice her hair is. That is a sad thing. But I must keep my table for a bit longer.

Grey boot and tan shoe are getting up to go. It must be uncomfortable in that corner, no matter how much you like the other person. He is attentive, she is attention seeking. They make me want to vomit. Soy latte, if a latte doesn’t have any real milk is it really a latte? I think not. If you eat a meal squished into a corner with no elbow room, have you really eaten out? I think not. Might as well have eaten on the sofa at home and avoided the risk of scuffing your shoes.

I finish my coffee. But I wait. I wait until grey boot and tan shoe are replaced at their table. Pink hair and blue shirt are also replaced. It is full again. I wait until someone else is standing waiting for a table, another couple, waiting to see if I am leaving. I am leaving. But in my own time. It takes an age to get my book into my bag. A long time to put on my coat. A time  where I am hovering at my seat. Somewhere between still here and leaving and nearly gone. My first tentative step away from my table.

The couple can’t move too fast, what if I go back. Order another coffee.  I pace slowly to the counter to pay. I have won. I know behind me they are slipping into chairs, one warm and one cold. I smile sweetly at the waitress who does not make eye contact but looks at my hat. Yes, that is my hat and I wear it publicly. I take the change from my ten pound note. All coins. What does that mean? Is that a sign, all coins? Don’t come here and take up one of our tables again. If that is what it meant, it is lost on me. I will be back. I will be here again. I will not be cowed. I have won.

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