A white-haired man buys coffee
and sits at one of the tall tables.
He knows it is all there
—the universe of lives that meet in the coffee shop—
but he cannot reach it.
So he sits at his favorite table,
takes a sip from his grande dark roast,
and just watches.
A man with trim hair, confident posture and a crisp pink shirt
orders at the counter.
The gray haired man likes pink,
even while presuming it is popular with gay men.
Perhaps the man is in advertising or media.
He can’t know.
The man isn’t gay,
he just likes pink.
He is in advertising—of sorts.
He runs a web site for a mega-church
and always carries a small New testament in his back pocket.
He has three children and another on the way.
A pretty woman in tight jeans and black rimmed eye glasses steps forward
with two young boys, also in black rimmed glasses.
The three stare and point at cookies and bottled sodas in the cooler.
The woman wears a serious face and no wedding ring.
The white-haired man wonders if she is their aunt.
She is their aunt
and she always enjoys treating her nephews,
but she has spent forty-thousand dollars and three years
on a nursing degree
and is nearly out of money.
The white-haired man watches.
A tall strong shouldered woman in shorts with a large tattoo on her left calf
is ordering. He cannot make out the tattoo.
She is gay, runs an outdoor gear store
and is preparing to open a second one.
The tattoo depicts a fish tossing in water at the end of a line.
The white haired man watches two men in the parking lot
bent over cell phones
who then go to their cars
where each resumes staring at his personal little screen,
punching tiny buttons.
He watches a new woman step to the counter.
As she digs in her purse,
a dark haired server smiles at himself.
Does he have a new girlfriend?
Is he working his first day here and happy to have a job?
If religion is practice, his religion is positive thinking.
Just yesterday a speeding car
rear ended him at a traffic light,
totaled his car
and gave him a sore neck.
“Always stay positive,”
he said to himself,
and is saying again now.
A man and woman in business clothes both lean against the counter of condiments.
He speaks with a wide mouth and sweeping hands
while she sips iced tea through a straw and listens.
A large nosed man in a backwards baseball cap orders at the counter
while his tiny long haired daughter waits by his knees.
The white-haired man drinks some coffee
and takes a bite of the chocolate cookie
he has sneaked into the shop like contraband.
He can’t quite see
what the gray haired couple at the front table are reading.
She isn’t reading.
She is scanning Facebook for new pictures of her grand children.
He isn’t reading either,
but listening to a lecture on bone cancer
with ear-buds and a smart phone.
The white-haired man sips and looks.
A grandmotherly woman and a pre-teen girl
listen as the tall bistro explains a new on-line ordering process.
The woman works her smart phone and smiles at him.
The white haired man tries to puzzle it out:
the individual universes of people
have intersected for a moment
—in a few words, in a look—
and then separated,
leaving each personal world a mystery to the others
—and to him.
And the greater mystery…
Is there one human universe?
Or only the many?
After twenty-five minutes
he puts his napkin and empty cup in the waste container
and walks out the door
bearing his own universe with him.