This afternoon, I was at the Bellerose Starbucks on Jericho Turnpike, which is the coffeehouse nearest to my home. Mark pestered me this morning to get back to editing my story Butterfly Wings. After outlining 91 pages of this story a couple of weeks ago, I put it aside and had trouble getting back to it because I judged my story to be inane and my writing skills utterly lacking.
At 2pm, I packed my worn hot pink paisley Vera Bradley computer bag with my afternoon essentials: computer, story print out, sunglasses, earplugs, house keys, wallet, a pen, my medication packet, and a full water bottle. After getting my grande chai latte and an old fashioned glazed donut, I walked towards the long table near the back of the store to join the two Indian students who were studying.
I passed a six-foot transgender woman in her 50’s sitting at the drink bar who comes into the store in the afternoons. She is dressed as if she could go out for an elegant late-afternoon lunch. If she came to my restaurant, I would serve her caviar and champagne. She wears red lipstick, a black beret, very dark sunglasses, a black blazer and scarf, black pants, and black high-heeled boots with a silver buckle on each ankle. Part of me wants to introduce myself. Maybe make friends. I feel embarrassed to try with so many people around. I pass her without saying anything. I make my way to a seat at the big table.
I have made small talk with another afternoon Starbucks jockey who often sits at the big table. He is a six-foot two, hefty, African American cop who comes in to do work on his laptop and make phone calls. When I saw him the prior two times, he was talking on his phone. He has a warmth which comes through in his voice. I decided to risk making chit chat. I expressed surprise to him after he came back from the bathroom because he left his laptop alone on the table. He shrugged his shoulders and told me that no one would take his stuff and, if they did, he would track them down. We laughed.
I sat down at the long table with my back to the window, unpacked and opened my computer, took out pages 91-156 of my story, and started to jot notes about each page into an existing Microsoft Word document. At 3:15pm, the store began filling with groups teenagers who huddle around small tables, pull out their iPhones, and start playing computer games.
I look over at a group of five teens, three girls and two boys. The girls are staring at a phone held by the girl in the middle. One of the boys looks around, bored. None of them are talking to each other. Only after the boy takes out his phone and joins the game that the girls are playing do the teens talk to each other, but only about the game. He turns the game sounds on his phone and a rhythmic series of beeps starts. The longer the beeping goes on, the more irritated I get. I fantasize asking him to kill the sounds. I worry about getting this teen angry with me and decide it is better to put my headphones on and blast Benny Benassi. I rock on with my story.
Adults swarm the counter. Orders are filled. Seats are taken. One woman asks for a short chair at the big table and takes it to the drink bar. She sits two feet lower than her friend who got a bar stool. They laugh at the absurdity of the height difference. The drink bar where the transgender woman has been sitting is suddenly crowded with adults. This is her cue to leave. She gets up and slowly starts to wrap her scarf around her neck. Two of the teens at the small table take the now available seat and the one next to it, ignoring her as they continue to play games on their smartphones. The cop, who found a seat at a small table next to me, waves good-bye to me as he leaves. I smile and wave. I return to outlining.
At 5pm, I decide three hours and 40 pages of taking notes is enough for one day. But I’ll be back tomorrow to take up my place for another fun-filled afternoon at the Bellerose Starbucks, aka the after-school program for high school teens.