Human encounters


Old woman struggles the heavy cafe door open. She somewhat has to drag her legs towards nearest high communal table in the front of the door. It is easier for her hip to sit on the high chairs. She is tall and skinny, almost see-through. Her long grey hair has a loose bun on top of her head. She’s fragile and sensitive but beautiful.

She is wearing loose pants, a knit and a vest. All earthy colors, like herself. She seems to be very down-to-earth. It’s easy to see she’s not that well anymore. Her body has given up for time. Her presence is glowing dim light. She is ready.

She leaves all her bags on the table and continues her way to the register to make her tea order.

Tall heavy-looking man in his forty-something walks briskly into the cafe. His neck-length curls are coming forth under the red cap, which care-freely sits on his head . He’s wearing green shorts with big side pockets full of stuff and blue-purple printed hoodie with the patterns made of shiny golden sequins. He is wearing black sneakers with the springs under the heels. He looks busy. Restless and active but easy-going guy. Looks like he is ready to jam with the indie rock they play loudly in the cafe.

He quickly sits by the high communal table. Just one chair away from the old woman’s bags. He starts pulling out his laptop and books on the table. 

Old woman is waving at him from the register and making some noise to get his attention. Man stops and lifts his head. He stares at her and tries to understand what’s going on. She’s then pointing and waving her hand towards the wall.

To make it clear, she’s then starting to shake her very long and skinny finger. At the same time she is staring the man over her reading classes hanging at the end of her nose. Very recognizable international body language is clear. 

Man sounds little astound when his asking “Oh you don’t want me here? You want me to move?”. The cafe is empty. “Yes, I need my space. At least three chairs, which is my arm-length. I have very long arms”, the old lady is saying and still waving her hand when she’s replying firmly with her thin voice.

“Oh you have reserved these seats? And the cafe is almost empty!”, the man sounds a little annoyed and surprised about the ban. He’s hesitating a little bit what he should be doing as it is unusual situation he’s sitting in someone’s territory in a public place.

“I used to be a teacher”, the lady continues from the tea register. “Children were all the time all over my personal space, so nowadays I need my space”, she is not trying to soften it down but requires her own space firmly without leaving any option for the man. She’s not arrogant, only firm. She knows exactly what she wants and needs.

“OK, I understand. Totally. No problem. It’s OK. Noooo problem”, he lengthening the no at the end letting everyone in the cafe to understand that he keeps the lady as a total cuckoo. “Is it alright if I will leave one chair in between us?”, he says nosily pulling his stuff near to the corner of the table.

“No, I need at least three”, she’s saying and showing the wide circle with her long arm.

Now he’s annoyed but trying to keep it in. Clearly he’s working on it. Respect the bloody elders, they can do whatever, he’s offended ego is swearing silently.

“Yeah, I got that. Sure”, the man says. “People have become so afraid of being close to each other. Socially limited. Whatever”, he is murmuring and rolling his eyes when he’s changing his seat.

The lady gets her tea and slowly drags her legs back to the table and her three seats. The man now sees she is already well-aged and older than she looked like from far. He softens. 

She doesn’t apologize of anything she has said but continues to keep the conversation up. “You have a very lively style”, she comments the man’s outfit after checking him out from toes to head. 

The man ponders a moment should he now get offended. But he’s respect to elders and good habits have won the ego. “Well, I used to wanna be a rock star. I didn’t become a rock star but I kept the look”, he says softly. The tension is gone. He’s eyes are friendly and he keeps it polite. Even though he doesn’t usually talk with grannies and he should be doing something else.

“I like that cap”, she admires his red cap. “Oh this was just 11 dollars on the beach in San Diego”, he replies pleasantly remembering the moment when he bought it.

The conversation starts flowing. They talk about Starbuck’s coffee, about the neighborhood and something general. They are warming up. Sensing each other intuitively if they would be finding the same tune.

Soon the lady starts telling her stories. The man is getting interested and he's leaning toward her but still keeping the arm distance. He seems fascinated about their conversation. The lady is clearly interested to hear what he has to say too. She seems to know exactly who he is.

“You know, you have to accept what you have. That’s the thing”, is the last wisdom I hear her saying when I close the cafe door.

Love, Jenni