” Oh… I get it. So you’re reading this book so older men think you are the perfect balance of beauty and brains. How original of you.”
I snort, while also wondering if this obnoxious barista had a point.
” You know you should really just stick to coffee. I don’t need a new tinder bio- thank you very much! ” His wife pinches him from across the table.
” What can I get for you my lovely? ” she asks.
” Skim cap, extra foam please. ” She dismisses my wrinkled five dollar bill.
“See John. Your judgement is costing both of us! ” She smiles at me.
It was my last day-off before I set sail for India. It was also my last cup of coffee, ( floating on foam ) that I would have for months. When I do arrive back home, it will be all of a day before I move into my next place, in time for UNI commencement.
It felt sad tying up old ends, especially ones that helped shape me ( adding to my substance abuse problem ).
I drink in the aesthetically unpleasing white walls, where my caffeine addiction came to join me, all of four years ago. I learned there and then that coffee is always the best company.
Awaiting its grand entrance, I gathered my thoughts whilst also taking in the hurried faces of the people dressed in black.
The owners, the gorgeously-composite Norwegian couple, their daughter still in school-uniform, a girl about my age who seemed to look down on me and my addiction and a boy with an angular face. I never bothered making much conversation with the staff. Maybe it was because they usually left as quickly as they arrived or that the couple were always so fruitfully honest and entertaining. I was always too full on their conversation to bother looking elsewhere.
So I decided to look at the forgotten. Perhaps it was Dalai Lama and Archbishop Tutu’s kindred words that were still swimming around in my brain, joyously. I didn’t quite know. But I did know I wanted to do something spontaneously different. To plunge my face into someone else’s day in a way that meant something. Perhaps in the way I always hoped someone would do me the same curtesy.
The boy with the thick jawline was my prey. He was boyishly cute. Not perfect in the slightest; the wife always liked to complain to me about his lack of initiative or common-sense. He would never be the prefect nor bother boosting moral at school carnivals. He probably stays home or takes the day for himself. However, he naturally exuded understanding in the way he dressed – rolled sleeves and doc martins. His hair perhaps as moody as he was. He wasn’t tall enough for me to feel intimidated by, nor old enough. I knew from bloodshot eyes he wore to work one day he was old enough to drink. But he was on the cusp of growth. I could see what he would look like with age injected into his limbs. He would soon have geometrical diagrams of a sunrise dotting his arms, coupled with younger waitresses pouting at him whenever he bothered to look up from the coffee machine.
It occurred to me that inviting interaction or further meaning to be accumulated between us would make his angular face both less of a curiosity and perhaps an inconvenience. If you have ever dabbled with the whole barista boy scenario, you would know it could turn as bitter as extracted coffee, being left in open air-
But I wondered, what would happen if you drew someone you knew nothing about.
Someone on the street or a face always there whom has always been just out of reach. Would intentionally touching every vulnerable corner of what made them them with a pencil, make you finally see what others did not?
Or would you see more and less of what others saw? Drawing someone takes away the awkwardness of formality, of staring for the right amount of time deemed polite.
What would happen between you both, if they knew you were watching them, as they watched you; if everything was open.
Should drawing be the new Tinder? An intimate process of recording each other openly, where one cannot hide behind a screen; where the process of filtering out emotion is not tolerated.
That night, as we get more comfortable, our eyes take over the dialogue.
That night, we dare to stare at the other in ways, words cannot saturate.
Where I am me and he is he.