I step into the coffee shop for maybe the twenty seventh time (Actually, one hundred and twenty seventh time) and I find my usual spot in the corner; a small table adorned with two yellow chairs which lies next to the turquoise wall and to the right of another similar set of table and chairs which often act as a latent source of entertainment for me when I eavesdrop into the conversations of the people occupying it. Yes, writers are shameless that way. The waiter arrives shortly with a bottle of water (How I wish I could write wine or a pint of beer here) and smiles at me in acknowledgement. I smile back and take out the same book from the adjacent book shelf that I was reading the last time I was here. The waiter gives me the menu. But he knows it’s of no use to me. After serving other people, when he returns, he throws a dazzling smile and asks, “Latte?” Noticed the adjective dazzling? No, I am not exaggerating. Screw lungs, in that moment, my heart must have pumped all the blood in my body to my cheeks. I try to show every tooth in my mouth in the best way I can. Too busy managing my red cheeks, I obviously can’t find voice in my voice box so I simply nod yes. My brain retorts angrily, “Stop blushing, you idiot!”
I might try to be and sound all mature and wise like most of the time. But say one word nicely and I will transform into this idiot before I know it. I stop blushing on my brain’s order and go back to my book – Go set a watchman. A wonderful line catches my attention. Jean Louise, who is now all grown up (or maybe not) says this to her lover, “Once you get past all the boa feathers, every woman born in this world wants a strong man who knows her like a book, who’s not only her lover but he who keepeth Israel. Stupid, isn’t?”
I am jostled into a similar track of thought, “Stupid indeed. But true at the same time – A man who knows her like a book! A man who not only loves her but he who keepeth Israel. But do all women really want the same thing? I am not really sure. I am sure that I am no different but I am also sure that there must be people out there who are. Not all of us can be the same. We have different genes after all! –
I am pushed out of my thought realm when the waiter returns with a cup of latte and throws that smile again. Stop it with that? Will you? I blush again and scold myself for being such an obvious teenager. I return to my book hoping that I would find some shelter away from my stupidity there.
All women want the same thing. All women act the same way. You think you are different but you are not. You think you are special but you are not. If that’s true then the concept of one true love shouldn’t exist at all.
God, you are overthinking.
The pages turn to chapters, chapters turn to parts. All that is left in my cup is the ghost of a steaming hot coffee; the leftover foam on the edges. All that is left in my head are the Negroes in Maycomb County. On the saucer plate lays two small packets of sugar that sit as if troubled, in fact, horrified by my refusal to consume them. Keeping them company is a destitute piece of crumpled tissue paper that is too hopeless to even complain. I guess the only happy members at my table are the book and the empty glass of water. I realize that it’s been two hours and I decide to leave. I make my way to the counter. I find the same waiter there. How lovely. He smiles (Oh god that smile) and asks my name. I tell him and before I could even realize what just happened, he has thrown in other questions. I don’t hesitate to reply them all but at the same time my brain makes an ironic enquiry, “What is wrong with your choice?”
This question isn’t asked by the part which often admonishes me over how my priorities are not arranged right in life. And if they are, how I always seem to follow the ascending order rather than the descending one. The question isn’t asked by the fundamentalist part of me who absolutely refuses to acknowledge my mild attack of pervert-ness. The question is not asked by the classist, who I think, lives in the fantasy world where I have royal blood flowing through my arteries. This question isn’t asked by the part who often tells me, in a rather hurtful tone, that I am a young woman with ambitions so I mustn’t invest my attention, efforts and time on the things that don’t really matter – like opposite gender. I am in search of satisfaction, meaning, happiness, not a groom or even a boring company for a night. For what you know, he says, loneliness comes and goes. (But does it?) This question isn’t asked by the motivational speaker in my head who doesn’t ironically speak much but when he does he makes sure that I am aware of the fact that I deserve absolute best and nothing a decimal point less.
So, who has asked this question? I am sure I heard it in my head! Well, it has been asked by that part, the most interesting part, my best friend who keeps me company all the time. “What is wrong with your choice?” Oh no, it is NOT talking about my choice here. It’s his – the guy talking to me at the counter.