It was chilly yesterday; 40°F and drizzling. I stepped between the puddles as best I could without hopping over the bigger ones. I opened the door for a semi pompous woman in her mid-thirties. They don't seem to want to smile or even acknowledge a man's presence, lest we try to solemnize them right there on the threshold of the double doors into Panera. "Why do I fucking come here?" my mind screams.
Once I get in, I remember. As snotty as they seem, they still intrigue me. Lean, slender, elegantly, elegantly coiffured women of all ages seem to be able to walk with their noses in the air; unseeing men around them. Others are on their cell phones; oblivious to anybody around them. Is it them or me? As a young man, driving a Porsche or Corvette, I thought I could approach almost any woman I was interested in. Now, in my seventies, they hardly see me. Occasionally I am amused / mildly insulted when an attractive sacker at the grocery store asks me if she should carry the groceries to my car for me.
Having worked in an office doing drawings all my life, I am not used to daily conversation. I am not that good at it. Never the less, I seem to be drawn to places like Panera's to see other forms of life, to hear sounds of others, and be somewhat intrigued with the interaction.
There always seems to be some sort of job interview going on somewhere. A well-dressed man, with a clipboard and pen is sitting at a table for two with his coffee. He leans back in his chair. A relatively well dressed man or woman sits nervously across and talks; guardedly with arms and legs crossed; forced pleasant smile. The interviewer speaks occasionally; the nervous interviewee does most of the talking? I'm guessing.
Today I feel something different. My normal spot near the front door and by the window is taken. I cannot watch the people entering and leaving. I look around the room and spot her. What the fuck is it about her that is so intriguing?
I get my pecan roll, put some fake sugar in my coffee and look for a new spot. There are several groups of old men. There are a number of women chatting; groups of six or more. When they come in, they have their nose in the air. When the spot somebody they know, they scream, hop up and down with their arms outstretched and hug each other. Most of the tables are full. I feel I am justified for my selection.
There a table away from me is a man; probably forty; red tie; dark suit; pen on top of his black leather bound notepad. The interviewer is doing most of the talking. He is smiling and moving his arms. He laughs a lot.
I sit down; but she is facing away from me. I can't see her face. What I see seems to be a mixed bag of impressions. The woman seems to be tall; as far as women go; about 5'-6"; not much over 105 pounds. She has a bluish gray cashmere sweater. It isn't tight. It fits perfectly. From the back, the collar is turned up. It covers her neck. From the way it splays to her left, it must be zippered in front. I can almost see the top of the zipper. The sweater must be unzipped part way; I'm guessing just enough to show the front of her neck.
Her hair would seem idiotic on somebody else. I'm guessing she is about fifty. Her hair is jet black. I'm guessing she is Chinese or Korean. She is too tall to be Japanese or Thai. Her hair is cut in a bowl-cut. The longer part on the top of her head comes down just past the tops of her ears. The hair at the back of her head; below the "bowl" is quite short on the back of her head. It is sort of like a Dorothy Hamill haircut. Dorothy's was a little longer; the way I remember it. Her gestures are modest; but she has long delicate fingers. She has a diamond on her left hand that belongs in the Smithsonian. So far I have not seen her face but I am fascinated with her. "What the fuck does she look like from the front?" I wonder.
I try not to be rude. I cut up my pecan roll and open my book and highlight things, planning my trip to Machu Picchu. I'm more intrigued with the woman in front of me that I can't see. I need to go. I go to play ping pong for two hours every morning at the Community Center. I'm getting texts: "where are you?" I want to wait. Maybe I should get up and go over to the bathroom so I can come back and see what she looks like? What if they leave first? I struggle with such petty dilemmas.