Save for the discreet shuffling of the waitress, the café was completely silent. There wasn’t even music playing. I sat there nursing my filter coffee, which I had stretched out over an hour and half. Occasionally I would bring the cup to my lips and pretend to sip some by making a loud slurping sound but not letting any of the tepid coffee into my mouth. This ruse had worked for 2 hours at a different café until one of the staff noticed that my cup was already completely empty. I was always sure now to leave some liquid as insurance, in case the waitress approached me demanding I order more or get out.
So I sat in the corner of that quiet café with my cold coffee, moleskine open to a blank page, pen poised. I was waiting for inspiration to hit and so I could begin writing my grand manifesto for the 21st Century. So far I had practiced my signature several times and started a shopping list.
I was annoyed when my productivity was interrupted by the door opening and a couple entering the café. They were large people, not fat, just large; it was like the Statue of Liberty and the Colossus were going on a date. Standing side by side they blotted out the sun. The waitress had to tilt at a 90-degree angle to greet them.
They sat a few tables down from me. I immediately felt a sense of discomfort as they read over the menus and repeated each item back to one another.
“Clay oven courgettes with thyme, pepper, salsa and yoghurt’ said the Statue of Liberty, “I can’t believe courgette and zuchinni are the same thing, so weird”
“So weird,” the colossus repeated back to her, “I like the sound of the grilled quail and chickpea puree, oh but it has sumac, I don’t like sumac. Did I ever tell you that I don’t like sumac?” he asked.
“Yeh, I think you mentioned it at Grace’s dinner last week.”
The uncomfortable conversation continued like this down the entire menu.They would pick out one ingredient in each dish and then talk about it briefly before moving on to the next one. I grew tenser and tenser, by the time they reached the deserts I had blown a blood vessel in my right eye.
The waitress came to take their orders. “Oh it all just sounds so good,” said the woman, “I can’t decide”.
“Me either,” said Colossus, “what do you recommend? The quail? Oh that does sound good, but I can’t eat sumac. I had this terrible allergic reaction to it once, I broke out in terrible hives, didn’t I darling”
“Terrible hives, all over his bottom” she confirmed. They proceeded to explain every intricate detail of the Colossus’ sumac allergy to the waitress. Then they started asking her questions about herself.
Meanwhile, I sat listening, feeling so uncomfortable about the whole situation that I had begun absent-mindedly rubbing my hair, matting it into something resembling an afro. The waitress eventually broke free, she looked at the frigid liquid in my coffee cup as she passed, “still going” I said, snatching up the cup and slurping from it.
The room was silent again. I sat watching the couple from the corner of my eye. She was looking around the café, perhaps for a visual cue, something to talk about. He concentrated on adjusting his knife and fork. She reached into her bag and took out her iPad. I let out a desperate little squeak, he shot a glance across at me, I smothered the squeak with a cough and sunk lower into the booth.
“Oh god, it’s been only 15 minutes and it’s reached the accessories stage, this is now a crisis”, I thought to myself.
“Oh did you see Dean’s email?”, she said without looking up from the screen, “he and Liz are getting married”. She swiped to and fro through the tablet, it looked like a playing card in her gigantic hand.
“Yeah I did, that’s exciting isn’t it?”, he said
“It is”, she concurred.
I began to hyperventilate.
She was reading something on the screen, he was staring out the window. I started muttering to myself, “why don’t you just talk about something? There are plenty of things to talk about? You’re two statuesque people, talk about being statuesque. Talk about something for god sakes” as I did I scribbled manically in my diary.
Evidently, I was muttering more loudly than I thought, they both looked sideways across at me, then at each other. He made a slight motion towards the door and she nodded.
At that moment the waitress came out. The Colossus called her over and, apologising, told her that they were going to leave and to cancel their orders. They both glanced at me as they got up before squeezing out the front door and striding off down the street.
“Again?” the waitress said to herself, “that’s the third time today”.
She turned and stared at me. I looked up at her from my diary’s scribble-covered pages. With my matted hair and bloodshot eyes I must have looked slightly deranged.
I could see she was drawing a causal link between my presence and the absence of other customers, but I preempted her asking me to leave by picking up the cup and bringing it to my lips, “still going,” I said and slurped loudly.