This story is one of the March Writing Challenge entries chosen to be a featured story.
The world is quiet today.
It’s a tentative quiet — the kind that unsettles most people to the point of wanting to break it.
Not me, though. I’m usually so caught up in the noise of my thoughts that the loudness of the world outside can become overwhelming — which is why, when these occasional, precious moments of calm come along, I feel like it’s my time, my chance… and I must take it.
Usually, I’ll do this by choosing a place to go — my hometown’s lesser known parks, a far-away art gallery first thing in the morning, somewhere like that — and simply blend into a seat, watching everyone and everything as they pass me by. Just to come out of myself for a while and appreciate what is happening in the moment, instead paying attention to the mind that insists upon what was, or what could be.
Right now, I am enjoying this time of worldly quiet in a tiny little coffee shop on the corner of a street where next to nobody goes. I’ve bought my coffee and settled myself into the perfect wallflower spot — right in the corner, cosy with cushions in soothing blue hues, and next to a wide, wide window that looks out onto the street. I enjoy gentle, felicific sips of my warm, sweet drink, taking note of the way it feels on my tongue, and I watch the quiet of the world go by.
I see so many things outside that people too often take for granted. A dog and his owner on their daily walk. The postman pushing letters through someone’s front door. A scattering of birds across the pastel-strewn sky. A handyman perching precariously on the top step of a ladder. A mother and her baby in a pram, laughing and smiling together in the sunshine. I smile with them.
I smile at it all.
When at last my coffee cup is empty, I take my sketchbook out of my bag and make little drawings of my favourite observations. I’m not a particularly good artist — I’m not an artist at all, really — but in these moments of quiet, I prefer pencilling out pictures to printing paragraphs of loud, loud words.
The daylight slowly starts slipping away, and I know the quiet of the world will soon follow it. But I don’t want to leave just yet. I silently beg the sun to hold on to the sky for a bit longer — let me stay here in this corner, just me, my sketchbook, and my empty cup until all I can do is fall asleep. As dusk begins to take hold, I think I almost might just close my eyes and drift into dreaming, until —
I see someone walking through the front gate of the coffee shop.
No. Not just someone.
Each step he takes closer to the front door — and closer to me — jolts me more and more awake, and the knots in my stomach squeeze tighter and tighter. It’s like my body is releasing nervous little butterflies one by one until I’m so full of them I might just float away.
I really, really wish I could.
He crosses the threshold into the shop. Despite the cool breeze that has slipped through the door, I can feel my face flushing red hot, and I’m desperate to look away, desperate not to be seen, desperate not to even think…
But, as always, I cannot take my eyes off him.
He crosses the shop floor. I watch the way he smiles at the barista, brushes the chocolate waves of his hair off his forehead, and leans with all the confidence in the world on the counter. I listen as he orders his coffee in a calm voice laced with caramel and see the way he picks it up when it’s ready with a delicacy that shouldn’t be possible with such incredible hands.
He nods his thanks to the barista and tosses a coin into the little wicker basket of tips, and before I can tear my gaze away in time, he turns, and his amber, amber eyes fall upon mine, setting them on fire.
There’s a moment.
Then he smiles.
And just like that, whatever quiet was left in the world is broken.