She washed her hands with great concentration, as if washing away remnants of sin. Her hands gave away no signs of ageing but something about them reminded me of the nurse that had worked at my childhood doctor’s surgery, hands that were tender and comforting. She glanced at herself in the mirror, almost by accident, but something caught her attention and she began to lose her gaze in her own reflection. She stared into the teary eyes, lost behind thick lashes. I found myself intrigued by this woman. She had suffered; I could feel it in my bones. There was a sense of sadness in her aura but I knew in that moment that there was no way to comprehend the depth of her melancholy. She was covered in battle scars, manifesting in her eyes.
She caught me looking at her. I smiled apathetically and then faced my own reflection that I so often hoped to evade. I could feel her pupils exploring me and then she was gone. I could not tell you what she had been wearing but I could write a thousand lines about the immediate connection that I felt to her. It was the sort of connection that you feel with those people that later become one of your best friends. She was somehow intertwined with my future, I just knew it.
I searched for her in the coffee shop but she had disappeared. I scanned the tables to find where she could have been sitting; they were each occupied except for the one furthest from the door. A mug rested beside a receipt on the table. The occupant had consumed a cappuccino, large. I had deciphered this information without even approaching the table, due to having ordered the same several times. I approached the table and picked up the receipt, only to realise that the mug was still full. The person had ordered 13 minutes ago, paid in cash and then left without drinking the cappuccino. I wondered if it had been the mystery woman. I contemplated asking the teenage couple sat at the next table but they were too immersed in each other and looked as if they should not be disturbed.
After pocketing the receipt, I headed back to my own table and watched a dog walk his owner. Having spent large amounts of time in this coffee shop, I had mentally claimed two tables and switched between them according to the weather. The first was at the back of the coffee shop, placed right against the wall as if to overlook the entire room. A psychologist would have deemed this as my requirement to perceive any visible signs of danger. The second table, at which I currently sat, was beside the glass window that enclosed the right side of the room, providing me with both a view of the world and the inside of the coffee shop. This place was where I came to escape the reality that was my own life. Being sat here meant that I could delay dealing with the problems that were so often prevalent. It was a way to prolong everything.
Sometimes I searched for things to write about and this place provided me with a sea of characters. Some came to the coffee shop alone, predominantly for the same reasons that I did, to escape their own relationships and lives. Others came with friends to discuss the profundity of their problems. This was a haven for most, a place of escapism. Sometimes the sun shone and illuminated us and other times we became dim with the quiver of the rain.
I often spoke to strangers and they stayed in my mind for a few days. It was always the older people that struck a chord with me. They seemed to look into my eyes and know that there was something out of place. It could have been their years of experience and level of maturity or maybe I was becoming worse at hiding my pain. Somehow they always knew, just as I had known with that woman.