You have an hour to kill, so what else are you going to do but go for a coffee somewhere, right? This is Dublin, and like any major city, there are about as many coffee shops to choose from as there are pubs. But you like Fixx because the staff there make better cappuccinos than Starbucks (which isn’t hard, in all fairness). To them it’s like an art form,
You order, pay for, then collect your cappuccino and sit down to read your book. For once you get a good seat, a comfortable one that you can flump into. You hang your coat on the chair opposite so no one will ask to sit with you. You’re going to be with people all night; all you want is an hour and some space to yourself. Besides, the book you’re reading – 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami – requires concentration; a table to yourself is what you require.
Because your head is dug into a book all you see of the woman who sits on the table next to you is her legs. She’s wearing black tights and black calf-length boots. Your eyes move up and you notice that she’s wearing a grey suit. At that moment, though, you can’t see what she looks like because she’s facing away from you. Her hair is jet black and you suspect she might be foreign, Chinese or Japanese maybe (although she might be a touch too tall to be Oriental).
On her tray she has a small pot of tea, a brown scone, some butter and jam. You go back to your book – but it’s too late; your attention is diverted. Her hair is short but her fringe covers her eyes. You see, however, that she wears glasses. But she’s looking down. First at her phone, as she checks her messages, then at her scone, as she decides whether or not to eat it. She pours her tea but you’re frustrated that you can’t get a look at her face. She may or may not be beautiful.
She doesn’t touch her scone but instead stretches her legs. You spot that she has knobbly knees. But you still can’t see her face. You return to your book.
Then you give up because you’re fascinated by this woman, this stranger whose face you can’t see. You see a wedding ring on her finger and think, At least her husband knows what she looks like. She picks up her phone and either makes a call or checks for voice mail. She says nothing, in fact there is no reaction at all. She drinks more tea, but this time cuts the scone in two and spreads some butter on it. She takes a nibble and puts it back on the tray. Then she looks down at her lap, and it is then you wonder if she’s upset about something, this woman whose face you can’t see. This woman in a grey suit, wearing black tights to cover her knobbly knees, wearing a long fringe to cover her eyes. You’re still not sure of her nationality, but you suspect she isn’t happy about something because she turns away and stares out the window.
Then she lowers her head again, concentrating on her lap. You think she has closed her eyes. You are utterly entranced by this stranger, and you find this weird because normally you don’t pay too much attention to other people (a strange trait for someone who writes, no?). She nibbles at her scone once more, then returns to her reverie. You are convinced she’s sad.
Then she gathers her coat and bag and heads off to the toilet. You wait for her to come out so you can get a good l00k at her face. But when she does she remains as enigmatic as when she came in. You think she may be beautiful. Sad but beautiful.
You return to your book. You now have thirty minutes to kill.