The holidays are over and I’m back in Coffee Shop. I’ve missed it. The coffee. The newspaper. The morning quiet. Being with people but, at the same time not being with people. The woman at the counter is happy to see me but not enough to give me a free coffee. I take my regular seat and open the newspaper. At first I don’t recognize the man who stops at my table. Not until he removes his toque. it’s Hat Guy. “No one puts Baby in the corner,” he says. And I think: Am I Baby? And am I sitting in a corner? I give him an itsy bitsy teeny-weeny smile. He picks up on my confusion and says, “you know Baby, Dirty Dancing.” I get it. He doesn’t want to sit at the table behind the wall. And I think: You’re not sitting here. You talk took much before nine. He walks around the room looking for someone to chat with. He’s in luck. Muffin Man sits down with his muffin and coffee. Hat Guy heads over to his table. They begin a: resolutions conversation. All about getting out more, doing more, slowing down. And I think: Are they talking about resolutions or goals? Two words that can be easily mixed up. The difference being: A goal has an end point. One either meets it or doesn’t. A Resolution is a long-term promise and usually broken. And how does one do more and slow down at the same time? I don’t know. But I have a whole year to find out.
Sheila Horne at: https://www.facebook.com/sheilahorneauthor/
Frank and his wife, the non-speaking couple, are in the coffee shop. Not much else is going on. Everyone is quiet and whispering. Maybe they realize I write about them. I open my book and stop. “This Diamond Ring,” by Gary Lewis and The Playboys comes over the sound system. And I think: Grade nine, Lamar Junior High School.
I sat next to Rhonda in art class. She was engaged to a boy who played football for Baylor University. Whenever the Texas A&M Aggies played Baylor, we all cheered for the Aggies, like everyone else in Bryan. Except for Rhonda, who sang Baylor’s pep rally song: Baylor University is going to beat the Aggies…hey, hey let’s go Baylor, over and over. She stuck her arm out in front of her and sang: This Diamond Ring. Then removed her engagement ring and ask if anyone wanted to buy it. Apparently, it no longer shone for her. I was in awe of her. She was the only fifteen-year-old girl I knew who was engaged, and not to a high school boy. I wished I had a ring to sing to, but all I had was one the nuns gave me in the convent school. It had the Virgin Mary on it. Somehow I lost that ring in the lake at Wasaga Beach in the ‘70s. But that’s another story.
I’m not sure what happened to Rhonda, if she ever married her Baylor University football player or if he broke her heart. But today, as I watch Frank trudge past my table to re-fill his coffee mug, there’s no skip in his step, not like the other day. Instead, his boots scrape on the carpet. As if he doesn’t have the energy to lift his legs. Or joy has been ripped from soul. And I think: This Diamond Ring is the perfect song for him.
The couple eat and drink their coffee without speaking to each other. They’re regulars. Not talking is normal for them. But today something different happens. Something unusual. Something interesting. The woman finishes her bagel and leaves. A few minutes later another woman walks to the table and says, “Frank?” He nods, and she sits down opposite him. He perks up. It’s the first time I’ve heard him laugh, or talk, or see him enjoy himself. They gab on and on. When he walks to the front to re-fill their coffee mugs, he has a skip in his step—an actual skip. And I think: energetic dynamo, who knew?
Two women, who I call, worker bees, are having an intense conversation. They whisper…whisper…whisper. One wearing black high heel pumps says, “she spills coffee and tea on the carpet near my desk every day.” She leans in close to the other woman and shouts, “Pisses me off.” Whisper…whisper…whisper. Their raised eyebrows and facial expressions fill in the missing details. “Exactly,” says her friend. “Know who I don’t like?” she asks. Now, they are almost nose-to-nose. Whisper…whisper…whisper. High heel pumps, says, “She’s a bitch.” And I think: bitches get things done.
The good old boys are back. No tractor talks today. It’s all about Buicks, Fords and Cadillacs, until one of them gets a call. He puts the phone to his ear. “Speak,” he says. And I think: must be his dog phoning.
Chatty woman from two weeks ago says she looks for me every day. Now she knows I hide at the back. I ask about her dating life. “Oh, you’ll never guess,” she says. She recently went on a date with a man who had a tiny head. She can’t believe Match.Com matched her with someone who looks like a squirrel. “Do I look like a squirrel?” she asks. And I think…
An excerpt from Sunshine Girls.
“The fight for rights, it has been going on long before the sixties,” Gilles said. “It’s only since Pierre Trudeau made his famous speech that the state has no place in the bedrooms of the nation that—”
I stared at him.
“Ella, don’t tell me you don’t know about the speech.”
Of course I knew about the speech—everyone did. I’d heard it when I was in high school and I knew the government had passed a law decriminalizing homosexuality. They’d also passed a law legalizing therapeutic abortions. In history class my teacher had said the changes were a big step for women. I’d doodled and half listened to her talk about Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run a marathon with men, even though the head of the marathon committee tried to ban her and doctors warned if she ran her uterus might fall out. I didn’t think any of it affected me so I hadn’t paid much attention. After class we’d laughed about it and some of the girls called our teacher a “butch broad.”
At the elevator in our building, Gilles switched back to his “normal” self. “Read the papers, ma belle. Keep up-to-date with what is going on. I know you don’t think so but it affects you and your friends as women,” he said. “And today’s man likes a woman who is aware of what is happening in the world.”
He seemed to be referring to Doris. She was smart and well informed. But Mary on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, who worked in a man’s world and whose job depended on being on top of world affairs, even she dressed in a feminine manner, wanted to find true love and get married. Now I was more confused. From everything I’d read, men didn’t want smart women. They wanted women who made them look and feel good. Maybe that was Mary and Doris’s problem—they didn’t follow the rules.
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