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The woman at the cafe

Tuesday 3/8/22

There's a cafe I've been going to on Hanover Street that is different than the other cafe I sometimes go to on Hanover Street. The former is the old school Italian place--for the most part. Other people drift in. It's where that young guy is who is always drinking the beer, with quite a few old timers sitting together or using it almost as a clubhouse. There are also people in their twenties, thirties, forties, but that's maybe ten percent of the clientele.

For a while, until recently, there was no seating at my Starbucks, for some reason. Short-staffing, maybe? Fear of COVID? They've changed the mood and atmosphere of the place with a redesign that didn't work, and it's less of a communal gathering spot there. The seating flow is awkward, and while you can sit there and work--and I do sometimes--the vibe is gone. It's more like a bus station feel now, but to grab a drink rather than a ride. People used to hang out there and work for hours, but not anymore. It's sterile now. Less people pass through. I go there, to read, to sit and think, to get a hot chocolate before going on the radio, to grab an afternoon coffee for a quick three miles walk, but it's not what it was.

They've lost a lot of business to this other cafe on Hanover Street, where it's ninety percent people in their twenties, thirties, forties. An over-priced place, so I don't get hot chocolate there, which runs to over six bucks, but a coffee itself is fairly normally priced, and I stick to that.

There's this woman who works the register, who I'd say is twenty-eight, thirty, somewhere in that area. She's very attractive. When I'm out, I observe just how many people behave strangely. They're uncomfortable with themselves, they're inconsiderate. They don't know what to say, they'll clog up where you're supposed to walk. They obviously don't think about others much. You can see how their entire lives are lived thinking about themselves. Very few people behave "normally" or appropriately. For instance, you get your drink at the end of the bar, and you can stand off to the side as you wait, out of the way. So, of course, this bro dude stands right in the only path through which anyone can pass, and scratches his gut, stretches out his arms. Not a thought for anyone else. That's typical.

Any time I come in and order from this woman, it goes the same way. There's a line, so I see how everyone else transacts. I am in real life like, I think, one would expect me to be, if they know anything about me, read these pages, have heard me on the radio, have talked to me. I have a nice way about me. I'm not awkward. I'm not fidgety. I get up to this woman at the front of the line, and I do what I would always do. I look a person in the eyes, I say hello, ask them how they are--but punchily, not for us to stand and chit-chat, holding anyone up--and I order.

And every single time, this woman stares at the counter and mumbles to me. Actually, when I say hello and how are you, she says nothing back. Now, one might think I'm coming in dripping the sweat from having run the stairs, but that's not true. This is well after the stairs. I'm quite presentable. I'll have a book or two or three with me. Because I only order a coffee--either hot or iced, black--she's the one who gets it. It's not a bar order. Before that, when she gives me my change, she slams it down on the counter instead of putting it in my hand. I don't know if she's that rude--more on this in a second--or she's terrified of me. It's a pretty brazen thing to do. "I won't even put this in your hand." She goes and gets the coffee, and when she comes back with it, she doesn't say a word, and again, won't so much as look up.

I was sitting the other day in a spot where I could observe her with everyone else. Smiling, laughing, looking people in the eye, handing them their change. And some very awkward people. You can hear a lot in a cafe. Awkward people saying things to make other people uncomfortable. She only does this with me. It really is something. It does, though, continue this theme of fear, but here it's over what? How I carry myself? How I look? Anyone who hears my voice knows I have a nice way about me. For all that I am going through and the situation I am in, I'm friendly. I'm personable. I'm respectful. I have a nice voice. I do carry myself with confidence, and I have no history with this woman or her friends whatsoever, as I've been entirely on my own since 2015. I've not ogled her from a seat across the way.

I really only notice her because of the nature of these exchanges, and the contrast. It's concerning to me, because it seems like this theme of fear and recoiling from me extends into every aspect of my life, not just "I hate him, he's smarter, he produces all of the art, he's the expert on everything," etc. that comes with publishing obviously. Is it because of positive attributes again? Because that is the real curse of my life. It's not shortcomings. It's not not being good enough. Every price I am being made to pay right now is for attributes. Is this another--albeit in this small sign way--because of my confidence and how I have gotten myself to look? Because of the non-drinking and the transformative nature of the stairs over these years? She just mumbles into the ground. It's very strange, and yet at the same time, I am not surprised. I think if she did the change thing--where she puts it down like that on the counter--to someone else, they'd say something, that's how rude it comes across. And bizarre. I am a very low maintenance customer. Not once in my life have I ordered food for myself in a cafe. I don't fiddle around at the top of the line. I don't even ask questions. I don't get in the way of people who pass behind me. Money is already out and in my hand.

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