At the counter, tepid tea rippling to the edges of a cracked tea cup. Tingling silverware, plates and bustle. The general, mostly predicable movement of servers bringing food, coffee, the check to the tables. I was about two and half hours in before I noticed the concerned, pittying looks. And from then, the game begins.
Is that all she’s going to order?
How long she been here?
She ever going to leave?
She waiting for someone?
But the thing is, when you get to this state, you don’t feel the passage of time. To illustrate, an example:
I was waiting in line for the bathroom at some point during my time here, and as I stood under the buzzing solitary light illuminating this stark hallway, I slipped out again. I imagined that I was in the hallway waiting line of the dead. I was waiting for anyone to pass by — a ghost, spirit, something, but there were only glimmers of conversation said in the past and some weird feeling of a future openness. I didn’t know where I was until the door opened. Sucked back into the present I had this feeling like waking from a coma — how long was I out, I asked the person exiting with my eyes, but she just brushed by me.
So it was at the counter, the shell of a hard boiled egg sprinkled on my plate in front of me. With one piece of shell still stuck on my hand. Staring in front of me without blinking. I felt like I hadn’t slept in days. But I’m not jittery. I’m not off necessarily. I don’t fear anything in particular. As if some sudden monster would come up to sneak attack me. And yet, I’m not on guard at all. How can I be? If something were to happen… No, but let’s not think of that. Anyway, I wouldn’t fight it. Partially because I have no strength to give.
A hard boiled egg has a film in between the shell and the egg. It’s the trickiest part to remove. If you don’t break it and scrape it off somehow, it’ll end up taking more egg with it. Then your left with pieces of an egg rather than something whole. As I’m doing this I can tell someone’s watching me. I’m used to it by now, but it’s like are you amused or curious or are you trying to get something on me? Oh, guys, she is meticulous with that egg skin stuff, make note. Is what I’m doing now so important to this man at the counter next to me? Or do I just remind him of someone? Or does he just want to fuck me?
This last thought makes me angry, but then I’m not sure if I’m angrier at the thought of being so wildly attractive that someone has thoughts about me as I unwrap this egg– like is that hot? Part of me’s actually asking because I feel so far removed that I couldn’t tell you anymore if it was. Or does the anger come from the feeling that he’s actually not thinking about me in that way at all so it’s all in my head and then it’s the realization of how lonely my life has become — to be completely ignored, to never have anyone notice anything about me…
But then a part of me says ah, silence finally. And relishes the moment.
The man is long gone and I have been staring at my tea for twenty minutes before I hear, “Fresh cup?”
“Huh? Oh yeah, sure… Thank you.”
“It’s no trouble.”
See, this lady, she knows. She gets me. She knows why it’s so hard to calm the mind and why I stare at things until they move. She’s probably had her own moments of what the hell am I doing here? She gets space. Maybe I should stay here. Maybe this should become my regular hangout. Maybe we’ll become best friends and she’ll know my troubles and I’ll know that she commutes from 2 hours away and hates the manager and she’ll tell me to never order anything with gravy in it. I’d ask why but she’ll just say “you don’t want to know” and after that we’ll make inside jokes about gravy. I get her.
What am I talking about? I have no clue what her life is like…
I’ve collected the pieces of the shell into a pile. At the shift change, someone took my plate. I told myself I’d order one more tea and then I would leave. The tea has turned tepid. It feels like I’ve been here only five minutes, but suddenly, I’m noticing it’s dark out. It is time to go home.
Okay, so be it. Finish the tea. Cash on the counter. A thank you and a wave and I depart. Time for something else.