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Friday morning, coffee shop.


The music until this point has mainly been classic country: Patsy Cline and familiar twangs. Now it’s Tom Petty.

A man with calves the size of elongated melons just walked in; he has tattoos on each outward-facing leg muscle, and is wearing a hoodie emblazoned with the name of a health food store in Lake Tahoe. He says hello to a red-haired woman, interrupting her conversation about building websites. She greets him with a warmth that hints at, perhaps, a shared past, the nature of which is unclear until she returns to her male companion with more gusto; speaking more loudly and laughing suddenly, I see how important it is for the man with the calves to know she’s having a good time.

The music changes: Beast of Burden. We are moving through decades of classics, and I wonder how many people could stand up right now and start singing along. I could.

Outside, a man in a black leather jacket pauses at the curb to dig in his pockets. I glance away and a moment later, he’s in the driver’s seat of a beige sedan, so I instead focus on a woman in a red vest. She has a cane, bends forward slightly as she walks down the front steps.

I am supposed to be working on a short story before starting my day, but instead I’m sucked into the stories unfolding in real time. How could I not be? People are fascinating; we are entire tomes, existing in a purgatory of editing.

(Who ordered the hot chocolate with whip? Who is this man with the backpack, and what is he reading? Why aren’t those four women at work? The two in cowboy hats, looking at tablets: are they friends, or merely sharing space because it’s crowded?)

The music changes again. We are back to country, bouncing and rhyming through the speakers. It isn’t a song I know, until suddenly, it is.

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