By Sanjoy Dutt
The editors have worked down Rita’s accounts. Sitting in a coffee shop, the author searches hard for a plot that would end her struggle.
“I can build you a great plot for a coffee!” A tall, skinny guy smiles at Rita.
She buys him a coffee, he drinks quietly, then gets up to exit. She stares at him, surprised.
“Watch out for what people need and desire! That sells.” He grins and moves his coffee cup up to his mouth.
Rita stares at him fading in the busy street, something was adrift in her head. A plot!
For the next hour I am just me.
I sip coffee and watch the people.
A young man hooks my gaze. He is writing. You don’t often see that these days.
He is young but … attractive. I wonder if he would glance at me and see past the shell of motherhood. We would talk of art and of writing and of how it could never work. Then have a delicious affair.
He looks up. I quickly look away and think of groceries.
As I leave I catch the eyes of an elderly man. He averts his gaze. He looks uncomfortable.
I see you. I get it. The long hair stranded in two braids. Lonely for each other, they parted ways after the split. I see you waiting. By the counter, ordering coffee, you twirl the edge of your skirt around your little finger. Bubblegum lipstick and dark eye liner. You’re in your fifties, but you still feel fifteen.
“Can I have more sugar?” You look at the glass jar next to the cream. It’s almost as empty as your coat pockets when you say you have no change. It’s the change that you’re always waiting for.
12:25 p.m. March 25, 2015
You were tall. Impossibly so. Towering behind me, I heard your voice before I saw you. I felt the sharpness of your words.
“Tall coffee,” you said. “No cream.”
By the starch in your button down and the crease in your slacks, I knew you’d take it black. Stiff, no nonsense, you didn’t move out of the way when I reached for a napkin. Instead you stood still, as if the world wasn’t spinning. As if the rest of us weren’t even there.
2:10 P.M. Monday, March 23rd.
She is obviously pregnant. Not the polite kind of pregnant that tries to hide behind over-stuffed purses or shopping bags. She is the ostentatious kind, pressed against tight red spandex. When she breathes, her belly—no longer her stomach—protrudes proudly. The word belly sounds silly and gentle. Infantile and almost condescending. This used to be her body part. Now she is part child.