Stories Through the Window

The cup falls on the floor, not smashing but the coffee pouring all over the street.  She looks up startled, only now becoming aware that it’s her own cup.  She looks down at the mess on the street and then to the two people who are sitting opposite her. They look away, not wanting to make eye contact.  She looks back down at the spilled coffee, sitting there staring.  A few minutes later and she stands up suddenly, looks up at the sky and screams. The couple get up and move inside the shop.  The woman walks away down the narrow street, walking as though disorientated and frightened.

An hour later and there is a man sitting in the same spot.  I can’t see what he’s drinking but he keeps adding something to it from a small silver bottle he keeps in his pocket.  He chain smokes as well.  When one is finished he lights the next.  Always watching his phone that is on the table.  Waiting for a phone call that doesn’t seem to be coming. He looks at his watch and lights another cigarette.  Then the phone rings and he answers.  His face turns white and he clutches his chest.  The phone falling to the floor.  He stretches down and picks up the phone.  Just like the girl he stands up suddenly, seemingly fine and walks away, now drinking directly from the silver bottle.

The couple who walked inside come out of the shop.  Smiling and laughing, they’ve forgotten the girl.  Now she’ll just be a story they’ll suddenly remember at a dinner party.  They walk hand in hand down the street, oblivious to everyone but themselves.  They don’t notice the girl who spoiled the first part of their afternoon coffee walking past them, back towards the coffee shop.  She goes inside and then reappears a few minutes later with another coffee.  The owner either doesn’t remember or doesn’t care about the commotion she caused.

She sits down in the same place as before.  She seems calmer, the vacant look in her eyes is gone.  She sips from her coffee, but I can see her hands are shaking, there seems to be pain in her face, emotional pain.  I wonder what is wrong with this stranger, this woman that seems so pained.  She reaches into her bag, and takes out her phone.  She appears to make a brief call before putting it back in her bag.  I can’t see clearly enough but I have the feeling that she is crying.  She keeps turning her head back to look down the street, waiting for someone to come.

Her behaviour before meant I didn’t take much notice of how she looked, how she was dressed.  She looks older than I thought, if I had not seen her again and retold the story I would have said she was a young girl but now I see she isn’t.  I would say middle aged.  She is strikingly beautiful, long dark hair and tanned skin.  She has a face that would hold your gaze.  Her clothes look expensive, certainly not how I would’ve retold the story.  I know it’s her though, the red coat she is wearing unmistakable.

The man appears again.  No silver bottle in his hand this time, just a cigarette.  His hair looks unkempt, his clothes ill fitting.  His cheeks are red, I assume because of alcohol. He sits down next to the woman.  I want to get out of my seat and cross the road to tell him to go away but to my surprise she acknowledges him.  Neither of them smile.  They just sit there avoiding eye contact, trying to find something to do other than talk to each other.  He reaches into his pocket, he still has his bottle.  She laughs a wicked laugh.  I can hear it from here.

He stands up, ready to go but she slams her hand down on his, signalling for him to sit down again.  He complies, like a scolded child obeying their mother.  As he sits down she pulls up the sleeves of her coat revealing her arms.  I can see that they are scarred, long marks down her arms.  He looks at them, and then back up at her face.  She smiles at him, a vicious, vindictive smile.  She takes something out of her bag and gives it to him, he pushes it away.  It looks like a package.  She throws it at him, gets up and walks away, leaving the man sitting there.

After 10 minutes he stands up and walks away, in the opposite direction to the way the woman went.  I don’t know what their story was.  I don’t know why the woman had scars on her arms, why the man was chain smoking and drinking, who the phone call was from and what frightened him so much.  I have no idea why she screamed and frightened that couple.  Each day I sit at my window and watch the coffee shop, stories unfold in front of my eyes but I am missing a plot, a beginning and an end.

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