Something has happened in the past few years, I’ve morphed, from a youthful girl to a woman who is a little world weary. I used to shine and feel exuberant, now I’m a little tired. The transition is natural enough, with age we lose naïveté and gain wisdom, lose dewy radiance for charming character. I’m okay with the trade-offs, I’m more comfortable with myself now, but it sure is nice every now and then to have those moments, those interactions with others that make us feel young again.
I love to sit in the Borders Bookstore café and watch people. Actually, I love to watch the people who watch people, they’re the really interesting ones. There’s a man, a handsome man, a young man sitting in the opposite corner from me, we’re both hiding behind our computers but in actuality people watching…well, he’s people watching, I’m watching him.
A woman works the coffee counter, she’s young, that perky-happy that some people are…scratch that, she’s hyper-happy, clearly loves her job and the free coffee. Her smile is unnaturally white, skin unnaturally tan, hair unnaturally highlighted…a trifecta of all natural, glowy, girl-next-door, unnaturally acquired and she is beautiful. I sigh just a little, I was that glowy, girl-next-door, once upon a time. I have let the highlights go for my natural chestnut brown, I got tired of the lotions that give you that sun kissed look, and I am not young. I was perky once too…somehow after two divorces, two children, and an unexpected move, perkiness has given way to wryness touched with the occasional, monthly disdain.
A couple walks to the counter, they don’t say a word but their body language speaks volumes. First thing I do is the ring scan…there they are, plain gold band on him, Plymouth Rock on her. She has turned, just slightly facing away from him. His lips are tight, jaw is locked, and there is that one muscle on that locked jaw that is jerking in agitation, he’s clenching and unclenching his teeth. Perky coffee girl walks over and her huge, white smile dissipates under the icy glare of the woman. I look over to hot guy in the corner, he is typing but eyes trained on the couple, eyebrows raised as if waiting to see who will win this one. I can’t help but smile at this, clearly he’s never been married. Perky coffee girl quickly gets their drinks, they reach at the same time and the back of their hands touch, he jerks his hand away from hers, yeah, never good. I look to hot guy, he winces and smiles. I smile.
Next up is mother and child, a favorite subject of artists and philosophers, and this woman does not disappoint. She is young, serene, she radiates and reflects the peace and harmony that is her universe…I was never this kind of mother. She coos to her little one in the infant car seat, gently touches a tiny cheek with one, perfectly manicured finger. I look longingly, wistfully, wishing I could be like that, knowing I never will. I am caught in her moment, I glance over at hot guy wondering if he can look at me and see that I am nothing like her. His face is soft and he smiles as he types and watches. I wonder what his thoughts are. Is he thinking of his own mother, the mother of his child, the future hope of one? Or, is this young man simply smiling at a moment, a private moment he glimpsed and was a part of? Mother and child get coffee, perky coffee girl plays her part perfectly and oh’s and ah’s at pretty baby, mother is pleased and sits, glancing at her watch. Hot guy goes back to typing.
Ten or so minutes later reality rushes in, a mother with toddler in tow and infant carrier in the crook of her arm. She scrambles in apologizing for being late to serene mother. This mother looks frazzled, she looks tired, and her fingers are not manicured…this was me. Frazzled mother hoists infant on top of table where serene mother sits, she grabs the hand of her toddler who needs a good nose wipe, and moving like a dirt devil through the café, goes to the counter to order. Perky coffee girl, appearing relaxed compared to this mother, smiles at the toddler, which brings forth giggles from the tot. Frazzled mother holds her hands up indicating that she’s ordering the largest coffee they have, her hands match the height of the large coffee urn behind perky coffee girl. Holding frazzled mother’s hand, toddler begins to twist in place, swinging out in an ever greater radius, pulling on frazzled mother’s arm. Toddler pauses looking at hot guy, hot guy smiles and gives toddler a thumbs up…that answers that question, no kids either.
Having had…I don’t even know how much coffee…I get up to make my way to the back of the store. Hot guy looks up over his computer, his eyes slowly take me in starting with my feet, I’m glad I wore my good jeans today. I feel him watching me the whole way and I sashay just a little toward the books. I glance back over my shoulder and hot guy smiles and winks…sigh.
Out where the books are, it’s so pretty. The light is perfect and the décor is nice, but I love books and the way they look. The bathroom is a white ceramic, bluish-yellow, fluorescent lighting, pit. I quickly do my thing and wash my hands. The water feels good, it’s warm and soothing over my hands and the soap smells good for a public bathroom. I watch the bubbles slide over the back of my hands, and my fingers interlace with each other and the water, a very relaxing sensation. I take in the counter, a fake granite laminate, the walls are tiled in the same white tile as the floor and the mirror has a rainbow shaped, smeary haze where it has been wiped. My eyes shift focus from the hazy streak to my face. I’ve never noticed how weird my chin looks. I wonder if other people look at my chin and think it looks weird. My eyes move up, I have smile lines, deep ones. I don’t mind those, they remind me that despite hiccups, life has been good. My nose is really the strangest part about my face…well, not the nose so much as the nostrils. My daughter and my brother remind me on a regular basis just how huge my nostrils are, and they pulsate when I laugh. My brother says that when I laugh hard you can feel a breeze…he’s my brother. My eyes move up my face to my…without warning, in the harsh, bluish-yellow fluorescent light of the Borders Bookstore…I can almost hear the...WEE…WEE…WEE…WEE…sound from the slasher flicks, when you see the knife raise in the air, light glinting off the cold, steel blade, but instead of this harsh light glinting off a blade, there it is, right in the front, a glinting…silver…strand…WEE…WEE…WEE…WEE…my heart races, my eyes narrow as I raise a finger up to touch it, to make sure it’s actually there…yep…it’s there. I have friends who love their grays, and others who hate them. I can’t say that I love or hate my grays, but they are a reminder that time is ticking, a reminder that youth, opportunity, and life are slowly slipping away. Each gray brings a fresh existential crisis. Each gray makes me feel more alone.
I leave the harsh light of the bathroom, slightly defeated and definitely not sashaying back to my corner of the café. I try to slink into my seat unnoticed, but of course, hot guy’s eyes have followed me the whole way. I slide down in my seat, pretending to read something online, head bowed down, but I let my eyes slowly look up and over to hot guy…all without moving my head…my eyes run from his legs up to…busted…I blush as our eyes meet and smile. I look back to my computer and get involved in writing. An hour or so later I begin to pack up, time to get the children from school. I sling my bag over my shoulder and walk toward the door, right past hot guy.
“A blush and a smile becomes you.” He has a beautiful grin.“Thank you.” I smile and sashay just a little as I walk out. I suppose I can still be wry but shine.