‘Can you check how many of my books are sold’ she says. ‘I’m too embarrassed to go in myself.’
I accept the mission. A $4.50 coffee in a mug provides cover. The cappuccino, it’s always cappuccino, is hellishly hot, which is not always the case. There’s no free WIFI.
Over in one corner sit a couple. They look to be in their seventies and they aren’t talking at all. Their coffees arrive and still they remain silent. Have they been together since they were young? Forty years, or more? Have they simply run out things to say? All topics of discussion well and truly exhausted. Their respective perspectives well known to each other. No need for any further clarification and definitely no desire for the same old justifications. They might be perfectly happy just sitting in close proximity. Old souls being at one with themselves and the universe.
Or, perhaps their silence is due to a recent disagreement? Simmering underneath their cool demeanour are words of anger and resentment. The cafe environment no place for what they would like to say to each other. Instead, a place where they cool down, count to ten and individually deal with whatever stuff they are holding inside the furnaces burning in their gut. Later at home, or in the car, later when they have formulated their feelings into more palatable and peaceful parcels, they will thrash it out, whatever it may be.
A woman dressed in the garb of a receptionist – sky blue blouse with a navy blue embroidered logo, black skirt and sensible shoes – enters the cafe and hands the silent woman a few sheets of paper. Even from a distance where not one word is readable, it’s clear the papers are medical test results.
The woman thanks the receptionist and says, ‘You didn’t have to bring them to us.’
‘Not a problem,’ says the receptionist, ‘I knew you were a bit anxious about it all.’
The receptionist leaves, the woman reads the results, her companion with his hand on her shoulder, reads along as well. Their shoulders relax, their faces soften.
I don’t hear her say, ‘It’s all clear.’ I don’t have to.
Now, back to my mission, how many books are left?