There are five of us sitting at a dinner table in a Starbucks at Christie and Dupont. The table is a glossy brown and looks like it has extensions inserted. We pretend as if we can’t see each other, as if we aren’t aware of each other, but we are painfully aware of each other.Do we pretend? The only person I really am unaware of is the fifth person, sitting on the edge of the table, hardly moving, facing all of us as if she were the patient parent and we the restless children. (All of us are around the same age, in our mid-twenties.)
We check our iPhones four or five times every twenty minutes. Why? I spent fifteen minutes eating cinnamon brioche—it must have been aggravating for the others, the bag crackled loudly. I was waiting for my computer to connect to the local Wifi network, sliding my hand back and forth over the trackpad, from Chrome to Safari, from Safari to Chrome, occasionally to Pages. I didn’t really need to be connected to the Wifi network, I only felt that I should be connected.
One of us gets up and leaves. Her movements are almost frantic. She leaves her drink behind, our only reminder she was ever here. When I came in, a kid told me that the table beside her was occupied. It was empty but on its surface it had a departmental envelope, two pens. A man, the kid said, was coming back to claim these items. He was saving his place with stationery. I hated him immediately. This was over one hour ago. Two women moved into his table. He has just returned, joining us at the large table. He is heavy, bald, in his forties at least.
In a weird moment of paranoia I turned my computer away from my neighbour, another man, worried he was taking a picture of my screen. I think he was only stretching. Now he’s gone and only three of us remain. The woman at the end of the table has become more apparent now. She’s moving documents or files into her Macbook’s digital trashcan. I know because it is making the sound the OS X operating system makes when a file is deleted. Maybe that’s poignant, her consciously erasing, since there are so few of us left, since it looks like no one is going to replace the others. Probably it isn’t poignant.
I want something exciting to happen. I’ve written these same two paragraphs hundreds of times. Perhaps thousands. I will be writing about sitting in coffee shops until after the oceans evaporate and the earth burns and dies, when life is just a memory. Somewhere I’ll be writing that. I feel that’s the absolute least I can hope for in the afterlife. Least. The least. You might think that’s weird.