Sunday, May 29, 2005


He sits alone at the table with his notebook closed in front of him, now and then sipping the coffee from a paper cup. It's a Friday night, around ten, and the place is packed. They all seem to be the same age, more or less, fifteen to twenty, maybe a few in their early twenties, here and there a mom with a couple of daughters. This must be the one place to hang, for miles around, or how could there be so many of them?

A good two-thirds of them are girls, circled around tables in clusters of five or six, maybe with one boy among them. Sometimes a couple of guys come in by themselves and get on line, but they don't stay, they just get their coffee and drive off again. All told maybe sixty or eighty indoors, a dozen or two at tables outside, and more — he can't see how many — just milling around the parking lot, talking and laughing. The girl sitting at a table outside, for instance, the slight girl with the flip of straight brown hair nearly reaching down to one eye, whom he notices each time he lifts his eyes to the window — has she really been laughing and talking without interruption for an hour?

For their part the guys mostly don't say much, they just listen and watch, their posture a little stiff, uttering a few words now and then. He can't hear anything that's being said; all around the room the conversations are mixing together, indistinguishable, without ever a gap of silence, and over it all there's music of some sort — he can't make out the songs or doesn't know them anyway — drifting over the whole room, providing a kind of continuo.

He's a little surprised how few couples there seem to be. One or two are obvious, hugging or horsing around, and no doubt there are others who keep it to themselves, who maybe aren't quite comfortable yet with being physical around their other friends. They're young, after all, there will be time to come for all of that.

He is not always solemn, as he is now. He has his moments of joy. He thinks, I feel those moments more deeply than these kids do because I know how fugitive they are and they do not, yet. But no, the kids really do seem pretty damn happy.

These things that occur to him, at times, in the late evening hours.

No comments: