Photo Courtsey of Rob Anderson
Photo Courtesy of Rob Anderson

By Rob Anderson

Cafe Grumpy is almost empty. There are a few customers up front, but the back is a sea of barren, two-seat tables. The only patrons back there–a young man and woman–have skipped over the small tables in favor of a long, wooden one that’s pushed up against the wall. Their backs face the room, and they can see out a large window onto the sidewalk.

The world glides by. It’s six o’clock on a Friday night, so there’s a logic to the rush outside: This is an hour to get from one place to the next. But no one is rushing inside Cafe Grumpy, especially the young man and woman. They have finished their food–two empty mugs and a plate strewn with cookie crumbs rest on the table in front of them. They have pushed aside their books, newspaper, and laptops.

They are not going anywhere, at least not yet. They are huddled close together on the same side of the table, leaning into each other. Their legs are so tangled beneath the table it’s difficult to decipher which ones belong to whom. His right hand rests upon hers on top of his right knee.

He is telling her a story, something about when he was in high school. Their voices barely break a whisper, so even from a few feet away, the conversation is nothing more than his persistent hum punctuated by her “uh-huh”s and laughter.

His story ends and the room is silent. They’ve said everything they need to and are happy to just to be. She looks down and smiles behind her thick-framed glasses. He brushes her bangs out of her face and then looks down, too.

After a few minutes, they somehow communicate that it’s time to leave. She gets up, puts on her a gray leather coat, and walks briskly to the front of the cafe. He stands too and pulls up his sagging skinny jeans. He tidies up their table and follows her through the door.

Now, on the other side of the window, they have merged with the rushing world outside. But they don’t join the others walking down the sidewalk just yet. Instead, they turn and sit on a bench. She leans her head on his shoulder, and he lights a cigarette.

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