A few months back, after an early Valentine’s Day dinner out, Hubby and I decided to share a coffee shop experience. We topped off our meal with a thick slice of spicy pumpkin bread for him, and, a moist cranberry-orange scone for me. Since neither one of us drinks coffee, we sipped ice water in thick plastic cups.
It was fascinating to observe the young couples in love standing at the counter, debating and weighing the worth of each sweet treat.
The middle-aged folks generally walked in with a determination – stepping up to the register and ordering their tried-and-true coffee companions.
In between the traditional patterns of behavior, a few eccentrics slipped in – seeking refuge from the world of judgment for perhaps an hour or two.
Across from me, at a table by the window, sat a man with a large, sturdy mobile phone that he plugged into the wall outlet. He made a seemingly endless amount of phone calls. His talking was rapid, but, most people live life rapidly, so, I didn’t find this behavior unusual. It actually blended into the 70 decibel level that makes coffee shops so stimulating. So, it wasn’t until he ended conversation that I was surprised.
His hands clawed and corkscrewed the air and shook as though they held baby rattles. I didn’t want to stare, but, I’d never been face-to-face with the effects of Tourette Syndrome before. I was tangentially seduced.
With every bite of my scone, I caught a fragment of miming motion. Just when I thought I’d have to turn away so as to avoid indigestion, I heard him talking about the menu for a holiday dinner – a mere hour or two away. As his mouth talked, his hands were silenced.
I sighed and swallowed the final bite of warm cranberry melting into crusty biscuit dough. We reluctantly stood up, leaving our imprint on the sofa. As we exited, I thought about how I fantasize coffee shops – the cute, the colorful, the sweet, the nostalgic – but – I’ve never before paid salute to the wounded. To the uncommon challenges that so many brave baristas across the world confront and respectfully accommodate daily.
I felt a little red-faced and ashamed of myself for creating such a sanitized, retro vision with which to barricade my mind and heart.
But, minds and hearts can stretch and burst, and, return with second lives.
I think I’ve just tasted the nectar of encore.
And I have a sly suspicion that I’ve learned of one more reason why I’m so attracted to coffee shops: They are safe zones inside which I can both cloak and confess my own kinks. I can blend into the cake batter, anonymous and free, while remaining inextricably connected to the other ingredients of clientele.