It’s just me, six baristas behind the counter and on the other side of the building, a Couple Having a Serious Discussion. Neither of them looks at me as I enter. Neither of them looks at each other.
It’s been a week since I sat here with my manuscript, really liking the way that last scene played out. I figured I’d be back in two days, but then some life happened, and all the things I was behind on demanded my attention at once, and then on the weekend there were two conferences at the university, a workshop I was leading, dinner with the poet laureate, a birthday party, a luncheon, and a long overdue dinner with friends, plus all the stress that comes with my commute (2.5 hours due to traffic yesterday) and my Monday classes, and so, I’m almost crying with relief to be back here.
It's been too long, and I have business to attend to.
I try not to let my gaze rest too long on the Couple Having a Serious Discussion, but I notice they have stopped talking. Both sit with their chins cupped in their palms. What’s so weird about this tableau is that they aren’t looking at their phones. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen people together just being together, with no media in sight.
If I could paint, I would paint them. It’s an Edward Hopper, 2023 style.
This morning I started the dishwasher before the dog walk, since LG cannot handle the subtle cycle switches and needs to be out of the house during the hour-long cycle. When the three of us returned, one side of the sink held about six inches of brownish water. I took a picture, texted Will, and then went about trying to drain the puddle, which was only accomplished by scooping water with a very small scoop to the other side of the sink. It was then I remembered we have a disposal (a relatively new addition to our lives) and that the last time I tried to use it, which was pre-fall holidays, nothing at all had happened. No whirring sound, no rumble from deep within.
I’ll deal with that later, I thought at the time.
Today is apparently later. The disposal chicken has come home to roost.
The Couple Having a Serious Discussion is probably breaking up. They look younger than me, although it’s hard to tell. His head is either shaved or he’s bald, and she has the kind of well-kept beauty that makes age difficult to pin down. Maybe one of them has cheated, or both. Maybe it’s a financial thing, a lost job, lost house. Maybe they’re discussing how to split the assets—furniture, kids, dog. Maybe it’s another scenario entirely.
It is, of course, none of my business.
Today’s high will be 62 degrees, and on Saturday, when I have big plans to clean off my patio for the summer, it will be twenty degrees warmer. This has been one long-ass winter, with a smidgen of spring, too much wind, a whole lotta rain that, this being California, we have no idea how to handle, and day after day of grayish skies. Eighty degrees sounds nice. It feels like find-last-year’s-shorts weather, work-up-a-good-sweat-walking-around-the-block weather, get-out-the-box-fan weather. In no time it will be ninety, one hundred, and we’ll keep our A/Cs running all night and still feel sticky underneath the air vent.
I get distracted by an email, and when I look up again, the Couple Having a Serious Discussion are holding hands across the table. He’s talking and she’s nodding, and then she talks and he nods. Maybe it’s not a break-up after all. Maybe it’s one of those “we’ve hit this moment and we need to make a decision” talks. Maybe they’ll agree to disagree. Maybe they’ll agree.
I wish them the best.
Paula Treick DeBoard