Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Story Collector: Hardly cheerful, but heavy and true.

On a Wednesday when the sky was heavy with the grey of winter, masking the sun and the sky in a monotone blanket of haze, I found myself at a small square table.   It was tall and the bar below was perfect for locking in my boots.  The coffee shop was full of chatter, alive with people fleeing from the cold, dismal weather; seeking haven in the cozy, lodge like cafĂ© and warmth in the caffeinated beverages.

A grand wooden beam sectioned me off on one side, creating the perfect spot to enjoy my black thai latte and read. Often,  I found myself so lost in these pages that all other noise evaporated, but pauses and lingering sips brought perfect opportunities for watching and listening of which I am frequently guilty.

Once we were having dinner with friends and we (the wives) confessed our love of watching and knowing everything that happened outside our windows.  Nosey, they called it.  We’re writers, we said, we’re looking for the stories. Stories are happening everywhere.

Coffee shops are full of people with stories.

A few tables over, a man and a woman, middle-aged, successful looking sat with a comfortable discomfort.  A date perhaps, a meeting of old acquaintances, I’m not sure.  No one reached across the table to touch hands.  There was little laughter. She had perfect posture and long, well groomed, black hair with a luxurious collared coat that reached her ankles.  I imagine she used to be a dancer in her youth.  Perfectly polished fingers wrapped around her small skinny latte.  Much less suave, but not disheveled, the man in a leather jacket and sweater sipped his coffee, black.  His face showed signs of many days spent in the sun. His smile never reached his eyes.

Her face was hard to see for the wooden beam and her voice soft, but his was deeper and stronger, and I heard…

A sigh, heavy with baggage, weary with a dash of lingering anger,

“I mean, she’s the mother of my children.”

And he went on to say how the summers were divided and the conversations about the kids and how they parented after everything ended.  It was an exhausting few paragraphs and his regard for her was somewhere between his greatest foe and someone he wanted to respect.  His tone was matter of fact, but emotion betrayed itself. 

Then the lady in black shared her tale, one of tolerating each other in public, but little more.

Heavy wafted in the air, buzzing with the sound of the steaming milk.

I couldn’t forget the sigh that preceded, she’s the mother of my children.  It felt fragmented and out of place, as if it has been one of many items in a long list, but now the last standing ruins.

No longer the girl of his dreams, his best friend, his wife, the love of his life… all these causing her to be the mother of his children.  Just the mother of his children, was a tune that faired better with the accompaniment of love and struggled when solo. 

In my journal I wrote, my darling, let us protect our love, for I never want to be just the mother of your children. I always want to be everything else too.

And then I went home to the man I love and found him sandwiched between two beautiful children.

Stories are happening everywhere.


(I do not intend to be insensitive to anyone in writing this, that is not my wish. I am merely collecting stories of humanity and life, as I notice them around me.  Some stories are happier than others, but all are worthy of being told.)


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