Friday, February 23, 2007

Sitting at Starbucks, Waiting for my Critique Partners

This was written a few evenings ago.

It's nearly 7:30. I'm sitting one table over from our new favorite spot, watching the couple that currently occupies it. There's been a pattern of conversation, punctuated by long silences. Not angry silences, but gaps where it's not obvious who should speak next, or even what they should say.

It's a slushy night, and Starbucks' other tables are filled with patrons. Animated chatter gives the room a contented hum. I sip my African red bush tea with honey, glad to be out of the bone-chilling damp. I wait, hoping the young couple finds the awkwardness compels them to leave so I can snag that spot for our critique session.

Their non-conversation continues. There's not even a lot of glancing over at each other. I'm looking for clues that might tell me what sort of relationship they have, but they're rather mystifying. They sit across the wide table from each other, the one we would prefer over the tiny version that barely holds my tea and my notebook. He faces her but hunches into the table, gazing at its surface or past her shoulder. She sits stretched out with her legs up on another chair, angled away from him. She cradles her cup in both hands and gazes at it, a smile playing over her features.

They don't seem upset or bored or enamoured with one another. But they do spend an awfully long time sitting at that lovely large table, even after my two critique partners arrive. We balance our 8 1/2 x 11 manuscript chapters and our hot drinks on the over sized dinner plate of a table. Our hands gesture broadly, we talk, we laugh, we go over one of the critiques, all hunched forward in earnest participation.

The couple lingers until I forget about them entirely. Until they leave. The other partners smoothly snag the spacious, inviting corner spot. That must be the problem, I guess. It's such a lovely, cozy corner on a damp February night. Not even an ambiguous couple with nothing much to say can tear themselves from its embracing charm.


Anonymous said...

Julia, you put words together in the loveliest way. Seriously. Things that should be mundane sound quite interesting when you tell it. :-)

Kelly Boyce said...

Man, I swear we need to get a reserved sign for that table. The nerve of some people occupying our table on critique night. Shameful, I say, just shameful.