I love the sounds in a coffee shop. Two men next to me in quiet conversation. Bjork unobtrusively singing out of the speakers and the milk-foamer giving off occasional bursts that sound like a television gone fuzzy. A woman laughing across the room at a joke I didn’t hear. All this company and, except for the occasional chat with other regulars, I don’t talk to anyone.
I came here to write about intimacy. I don’t know if being here is intimacy, but it is enough connection to cut the edge off the bleakness that often comes at this time of the year, after the winter silence turns stale. This proximity to others, even those who I don’t know, gives me the right amount of distraction from myself to start writing.
Writing has often provided a space where I feel safe to question and be curious while attempting to grapple with the complexities of life in order to come to something simple yet still rich and full of meaning. A blank page is infinitely patient. At least now, right now, no one can see what I write. This contemplation of intimacy is easier here, slightly removed from the experience itself, in a coffee shop while I remain discrete behind my flipped-up computer screen.
The two men sitting at the table must be in their 70s or even 80s and I wonder what they think of the music, if they even notice it at all. Like people who care about one other, they lean in towards each other over their coffees. It might have to do with the fact that neither one of them can sit up straight anymore. Or because of their hearing since one of them keeps repeating themselves. They are talking about their weight. One man’s voice drops to a whisper. “I lost ten pounds,” he says, “and it was just from walking and changing the way I was eating”. The other man congratulates him. I find them endearing, not because they are older but because they are people. They seem real. Certain fronts stripped away. Maybe age helps with this. We get too tired to carry those heavy things that we think protect us. Maybe it’s not age or time but utter exhaustion from being someone other than ourselves.
We must be willing to give up a lot to experience intimacy. We must set aside speed and busyness and be willing to slow down, really slow down. We must give up our efficiency, our impatience, and preoccupations; all thiefs of intimacy. The good news is that this stuff is well worth losing.
One of the men asks me what I'm writing. Surprised, I tell him that I'm writing about slowing down. I leave it at that because this is really just a first draft and I never know if it will turn into anything else. The men laugh and then I laugh too.
"I can tell you all about that," he says smiling.
Image Credit: DeviantArt