Sitting at a small table pushed up close to the window, I can see the rain trickling down the glass pane. It slides and connects in smooth rivulets creating tiny streams and rivers like a transparent unmarked map of the world. I'm listening to three conversations at once and absentmindedly reading the book in front of me. I should really give it up. The men behind me, in their late 20's both wearing the flannel shirts, plastic framed glasses, vaguely maintained stubble and knitted caps of Midwestern hipsters are discussing Tori Amos' rumored sexual proclivities, then German music, and I've missed something. They somehow link this to the burgeoning scandal at Penn State and end up talking about ewoks. Which is where many conversations in coffee houses end up in my experience. The place smells of wet wool scarves, damp newspaper ink, and freshly ground coffee beans. The women next to me are talking Chanel's latest line, Junior League gossip and the Duggar's latest addition to their brood, and the stress of potty training.
Out of the corner of my eye I see a little girl staring at me. Her springy ringlets going to fuzzy, she wears a pink and black rainslicker and she is kicking her green frog galoshes against her mother's leg while looking right at me. I smile and she looks quickly away until I pretend to turn my gaze back to my book and she starts staring again. Her game is interrupted by more cookie and hot cocoa consumption, and a brief scolding from her mother, "Libby, stop kicking me." "I'm not kicking you, mommy, the frogs are jumping on you." They both laugh and Libby spills hot cocoa on her jacket.
I hear the constant grinding ballet of espresso machines and grinders, milk being frothed into delicious submission, order after order of creamy hot beverages from harried customers ending their day here. Middle aged ladies frown while reading Joan Didion. A crowd of Catholic high school girls in plaid pleated skirts all push back from their table at once, chairs screeching on the hard floor, we all watch them walk out of the shop, their long straight blond hair falling in unison down their backs like lines of longitude. They will separate and head back to their homes. To warm 1930's houses, and dinner with little brothers, and Algebra homework and instant messaging late into the night with boys named Jake and Colin, their young shoulders braced against the wind as they push open the swinging door and head into the rain.
Today I'm thankful for thirty minutes at a coffee house, alone. My last meeting of the day will start shortly. We will talk for an hour about social media and Facebook versus traditional websites, I'll have the chance to catch up with a friend and colleague I haven't seen in ages, but for right now, I'm thankful for these thirty minutes. Just to watch and listen and write. Write whatever I see and hear and feel. Just feel the pen in my hand dragging across the paper. Just freestyling. I need to do this more. Pen on paper will always feel more natural and unrestricted than filling this blank screen with words. So today I'm simply thankful for those thirty short minutes and Libby's sweet smile.