"The former secretary of state."
"What this means for you...."
"Do you have an espresso preference?"
"Do you have the resources you need?"
"In two or three days...."
"Coffee for here."
"I hope. Things are pretty interesting right now."
"What can I get for ya?"
Each line a story.
I'm sitting at the end of a wide planked table at a coffee place I rather like a couple blocks from where I work. It's morning, though not early. Just the right time for a chocolate croissant to eat slowly, and a cappuccino, dry.
A man comes in wearing a blue checked shirt, Vans, dark jeans. He stands by the water cooler, checking his phone. A tattoo peaks out at the cuff of his shirt. Behind the counter, one girl wears a beanie, a nose ring, earrings, and a tattoo collar and sleeves. She has a bright, unguarded smile when someone familiar comes up to order. A family comes in: a girl and boy and their mom and dad. They're clearly traveling from some place or to some place. The dad had olive skin and shaggy hair; the mom's a freckled brunette. The little girl won't come to sit at the communal table until the whole family does, and so she stands, hopping from one foot to the other at the counter.
Beside me is a Japanese man with a goatee, a purple belt, tattoo sleeves of waves, and a MacBook Air that matches mine. A girl walks in, a brunette with dark bangs and big hoop earrings. She beams at him. I offer to move, but they say no, they'll find a different spot, and then they do, opposite each other at the end of a tall table made out of an old drill press.
When my friend comes what he notices first are the acoustics, having spent much of his life in a band. The high concrete ceilings and bamboo planks on the walls that please my eye for their geometry and lines, are terrible for sound apparently. Whenever I spend time with musicians, I'm always struck by how differently attuned they are; always listening to a different rhythm and echo and tone.
Listening to the conversations rise and fall around me I'm suddenly reminded of a film I watched in the early 90s, by myself in a movie theater in Yellow Springs, Ohio. I was 16. It was the first film I'd ever watched without a date, and far too indie and emotionally complex for me to like it at the time, but the images inexplicably stayed with me: Thirty Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. I love the memory I have of it: like a a few dozen nearly picture perfect snapshots, and one is of Gould composing in a cafe, finding notes and harmonies in of what other people hear as noise. The lilt of voice and then another, the clack of cup, the clink of spoon.
These are the moments that make things real.