Two Chairs Down

At the coffee shop, there’s a ragged, bearded, middle-aged man sitting two chairs down from me. For awhile he’s turned around sideways watching the chess players gathered in the corner. They give him a quick glance, and return to their games. He mimes interest for awhile, then turns around and stares out the window, sometimes taking notes with a blue Bic pen on the front of a newspaper. Now he taps on the window as if trying to get someone’s attention. He climbs down out of his seat, picks an umbrella and a plastic grocery bag off the floor, and drops them onto the seat beside mine. A minute later, he’s pacing back and forth outside, smoking a cigarette. On one of his passes, he taps on the window right in front of his chair. His seat has been taken by the time he gets back inside, so he pushes his things off of the chair next to mine and moves in there, where he sits quietly for a long time. He eventually breaks his silence with a string of incoherent muttering – nothing aggressive. He wrestles with the newspaper that’s still in front of him on the counter and crosses out some of what he’s written before climbing out of the chair. He gathers his things and walks out. He heads down the hill, toward downtown. Later, I gather the newspaper to see what he’s written. On the front page he wrote a name, his own I assume – first, middle, and last -, repeated several times. On the sports page, he wrote out the alphabet and then the numbers “101 202 303 404 505 606 707 808 909”.

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  1. For some reason, I really liked the picture you painted with this one. I can relate to your observations of other people. I often go to the mall and sit quiety, watching everyone at the food court play the social games that have been repeated infinite times. Thanks for this glimmer of curiosity.

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