It’s whimsy to consider this exercise; a soft approach to starting somewhere—anywhere on the empty page without a shard of confidence at the moment that anything might come forward.
My finger, recent victim of my own carelessness still throbs electric pulses with the memory of a slim, unfamiliar knife I was using when the snow began to fall. This day glistens in aftermath of a brilliant storm. Blue meets brick, meets white and the hardwood underfoot in the Green Bean Café, colors the morning lovely. I write. I look around. I settle in to an unfamiliar chair.
Where do all these bundled travelers come from today? Out of the cold, for one. Out for provisions, some for distraction from home-bound days and ice fall. Sideling up to these second hand tables in sweatshirts and stocking caps, men of various ages gab and turn the pages of today’s paper. Kevin, Richard, Bruce, and the new guy who just joined them, talk religion at a table for four.
“I prefer the Taoist perspective personally, though I was raised Episcopalian.” Says the new guy. “Gimme five, man”... says another, and then suddenly the new guy’s talking about a rat named Spunky—who looked like a Dalmation. “Never owned anything more than rodents, actually.” He says, “ So, did you see, IU Won Last night?”.
The quiet guy, out of nowhere and seemingly in reference to nothing in particular says, “ There used to be a coffee shop downtown right next to Nick’s called the Daily Grind. They’d give you really big cups of hot coffee”.
“I don’t like hot coffee, a-a-a-ctually.” It’s the new guy. Actually appears to be a filler word he uses to minimize what I now recognize is a stutter.
They ramble aimlessly from one fleck of conversation to the other. Transitions are vague, the willingness to flit without landing on any sustained subject, now seems a given. “ I was always good with nouns and verbs and adjectives says the older man named Richard”….as they move to latin derivatives and what they studied in college. Philosophy and English. Turns out Richard graduated in 1948. The new guy is Nick. He stutters more noticeably and says he’s taking a break from school now since he ran out of college money. I suspect there might be other reasons he’s taking a break from college, but am glad for him to find new friends in these strangers today. The capped men of multiple generations keep it up, the coffee and conversation keeps pouring. It’s a sketchy kind of flow. But there’s a rambling give and take, a welcoming presence in this morning light.
I stifle laughter and radiate love for these men of a world I live in but seldom inhabit. I have only seen this little spec of the world because I ventured to an unfamiliar shop today. I pause in a moment of appreciation for the wackiness of refugees and retirees. The ways connection can sound when I’m literally listening in sideways. They consider their plans and old Richard says he no longer plans much any more since every plan he ever made got botched. And now they’re talking about Nick’s stutter and Richard’s lifelong speech impediment. They lean in toward one another in an intimacy of a shared affliction. Richard’s developed when he was in Jr. High. He says he’s convinced it had something to do with S-E-X. He whispers this loudly in the close quarters of the coffee shop. The miracle of the morning is that Richard, who I figure is 85, claims his impediment disappeared a mere 3 weeks ago!
The electricity is on now back home, so the men get up to leave and make their way as softly as possible down the front steps along the knife-edge of the curb to their rusty cars. The new guy, Nick, holds old Richard’s elbow, waves and saunters off once they’re on more solid ground. Shards of light scatter rainbows across the room as a crystal on the door moves with the open and close. This whimsy, this glittering morning, a smile on my face. Grace in the random juxtaposition of people and things. A second cup of coffee and second hand conversation.
BLR for the Poplar Grove Muse