Tuesday, July 29, 2014

At the Coffee Shop, Part 3

Debbie Reynolds and her son are arguing.
“How could you do this to me?” He leans dangerously over his buttered bagel. “I would never do this to you!”
Debbie is staring over his left shoulder at the coffee shop menu posted on the wall. Today’s special is half a tuna salad sandwich, a bowl of tomato soup, a medium drink and a tiny, organic apple.
“Never!” he says.
Debbie--my name for her--is a stylish 80-something-year-old whom I see, with her son, every day at the coffee shop. She is perfectly coiffed and made-up, a vision in pastel slacks and a flowery blouse. She wears long earrings and many bracelets, and her small teeth are very white. She bespeaks the elegance of earlier days.
Her son, not so much. He is paunchy, red-nosed and veiny. He is constantly on his cell phone and has a homeless look to him, and now that he wears a new haircut, he looks like a homeless man with a cell phone and a new haircut. He has only spoken three words to me since I’ve started coming to the coffee shop. He told me, “I’m from Brooklyn.” At the time I didn’t know whether this was a secret code phrase like, “I’m a friend of Bill’s,” or “Boolah boolah,” so I smiled and nodded. A few days later I noticed both his jacket and the T-shirt he wears say Brooklyn on them, so I guess his minimal utterance was simply a statement of fact.
In time he quiets down a bit and Debbie says, “I didn’t mean anything by it.” She is cutting her morning scone with a knife and fork, making tiny, bite-size pieces. He is stuffing most of the bagel in his mouth and chewing with his mouth open. She dabs at her lips with a paper napkin. “It’ll be all right. I’m sure.” He shrugs, unconvinced.
In the booth behind mine I can hear a women hissing into her phone. “All I want is the truth!  The truth! Not lies!”
She’s also in her twilight years; she wears no makeup and her hair is a frizzled grey mass wrestled into a bun. There’s a cane on her table, a copy of the Falls Church Tribune, and  several noted scribbled in pencil. She’s a regular too, there every day at 6:45, which is generally the time I arrive after my session at the gym.
“Why is it so hard to tell the truth, I ask you? Why? Why?”
The last why is a plaintive moan.
I could probably answer her question. People lie because they can, I think, and once the lie is out there, it breeds other lies. I say nothing; my explanation would be less than satisfactory.
There are other regulars too, including a mean-looking motorcycle cop with a shaven head and a jutting chin. He wears shiny black Gestapo boots that stop just short of his knees. He comes in everyday with another cop, a young girl with a shoulder patch that reads “Parking Enforcement,” and I think that can’t be much of a fun job, handing out parking tickets in a small town.  Once I approached them wanting to ask if they could arrest the coffee shop manager for playing really horrible music early in the morning but when I got near their table the mean-looking cop glared at me and I thought better of it, so the music continued, a teeth-grinding all-string version of Guantanamera played really loud. The cops weren’t listening, I guess.
Today the neck-brace lady was there too. My African friend behind the counter said she apparently tripped over her shih tzu and severely damaged herself. The shi tzu had two broken ribs and healed quickly.  
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