Other people, 2007

A man who is balding but also growing his hair long comes into the coffeeshop with a girl who could be his daughter. They sit on the couch in front of me and both pick up a section of the newspaper that is in front of them. The girl reads the front section and the man reads the sports. They share a bagel, barely speaking. After a while, the girl puts her paper down, crosses her arms, and stares out the window in front of her. An older couple comes in. The man, wearing a blue collared shirt under a plum sweater, says “Happy birthday” a couple of times to someone at a table full of women with toddlers. A woman at that table, in conversation, says the phrase “a circle of neglect.”

The toddlers have got hold of some sort of toddler vehicle and are slowly making their rounds of the coffeeshop. Calmly, like a procession. They are all blond and fair. The girl in front of me watches them, and I look at her face for the first time. She has very grown-out highlights. To me, she looks too young for highlights but I don’t know what the going age is for these things anymore.

My table wobbles, and I enjoy taking a sip of my tea and putting the mug down on the top-right corner, causing the table to tilt in that direction.

A young mother sits near me with her young son, who I immediately identify as half-Asian, like me. He sits at the table alone, playing with a robot toy, while his mother orders her coffee. I look at him, at his face that is of course unlike mine, but like mine at the same time. His mother obviously adores him. When she sits down they talk and she is smiling, gazing at his face with unmasked love. Now and then, in my peripheral vision, I see her look at me, and I wonder if she identifies the parts of my face too. Like we are part of the same secret association.

 

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