Every evening at six, I sit amidst a sea of people in a cafe farther down North. The air around me crackles with words I don’t follow. I can’t distinguish voices, so it sounds like a perpetual buzzing of the air. Mouths move, words are uttered but their meaning gets lost in a haze midway.
I take tiny, measured sips of my coffee, its warmth pulsating in my veins; it is my excuse for silence. The cubicle in which I sit is jammed with practiced smiles- not too much; not too little -and conspicuous gulps. The girl with a ruffled bow has her camera out already.
Someone utters something witty and our close knit huddle erupts in laughter. I don’t. My mind is befogged and I’m trying to focus on the label stuck to the bottle of hot sauce.
‘Manufactured in Hogsmeade.’ Peculiar.
I hook a finger in the collar of my turtleneck and pull, craning my neck slightly.
“Geez,” I glance at the sweater less arms around me, “doesn’t anybody else feel the brunt of December?”
Someone nudges me on the side. I turn and behold a perfect set of eyebrows creased in confusion. Inquiringly, she jerks her head up a little (sensing that my mind was distracted) and attempts to pull me back into the hubbub of the group.
I smile reassuringly and pretend to listen but the buzzing continues. She grins and rejoins the conversation, triumphing at the outcome.
What are they talking about?
I get stuck on a boy opposite me. I wonder if anyone noticed the blotches of ink on his left hand. His eyes are puffy and shoulders are slouching. He looks exhausted and appears skinnier than the last I saw him. But he beams at everyone and clutches his mug tightly, holding on to the warmth he’s paying for.
I look away and peer through the frosted window I chose to sit next to. The street outside is a greyish blur.
“From the other side of this translucent glass,” I muse, “we must be a blur too. Five silhouettes propped against the golden glow of a cafe.”
Glancing above I follow a thin wire of dazzling yellow lights. They hang on rusted nails, hammered several Christmases ago.
I’m about to pursue the trail of lights when something happens. A voice hits me and the world zooms into sharp focus. I’m snapped back to clarity and the crisp sound of slurps and munches reaches me. The conversation is suddenly discernible.
“Did anybody notice the sky this evening? It was a distinct, rain-washed midnight blue and I could already see hazy outlines of stars appearing on the horizon when I walked here.” The scruffy boy opposite me sighs and looks around the table, hoping someone would mirror his spirit.
I smile at him feverishly.
See now the table has my attention.