It’s funny when you think about it, isn’t it? To think about how many different lives and stories are being formed in the exact same place, in the exact same space at any given moment.
I walked in to a little coffee shop to “I Miss You” by the Doors and I knew I had to sit and stay awhile. I went to sit on a vintage flower covered couch and as I sat, I just kept sinking, lower and lower into its mustard-colored embrace. Finally, I stopped sinking and my knees were far closer to the ground than I’d anticipated. I’m enveloped into it as so many others had been greeted into its tarnished depths before me.
I looked up to see a woman, her skin telling me it has seen years full of stories, lightly worn over time, soft wrinkles along her elbows, the corners of her eyes and hands…her long nimbly fingers hold the edges of the paper. The political section sways back and forth in her hands like the breeze as she sways to and fro listening to the young man playing acoustic in the corner by the door. He’s sitting on a drum, strumming and singing, making multitasking look like a true God-given talent. Her slight smile is so blissed I can be sure she hardly knows it’s even there as she turns and pats her husband’s velvety, sinewed hand.
She passes him the sports section of her paper and they share a smile that spans across fifty years. The kind of smile that translates to the kind of knowing only a long term companionship can begin to understand. The tables all have mismatched colored chairs — some high, some low, some wooden, some rusted gear metal. The shamble-y collaboration of old and new invites every walk of life to come in and join the complex melting pot that is happening within these walls.
At the dark oak bar, a girl no older than 22 sits in her combat boots, tapping them against the shiplap while vigorously writing away to Ring of Fire being sang in the background. She whistles and pops up to dos-e-do with her friend sitting catty corner to her. They both giggle as the line to order strong freshly brewed coffee begins to grow. The air is full of conversation, some full of laughter, some deeper and more serious. The cadence ebbs and flows in the air over a sea of completely unique people in one small, shared space. It has its own kind of melody and harmony.
A slender, lanky man sits with his feet crossed at the ankles, bent over a raw wooden table with his sharp elbows propped, deep in conversation with what I can only describe as a naturally beautiful and earthy woman. Her chocolate brown hair is curly, seemingly unbrushed but not needed. Her waifish body gracefully crossed from arm to knee like a gnarled tree as she listened contentedly to everything being said. She uses her hands like another vibrant, animated language to get her points across and he shifts his back as he takes in her words. The tattoo splayed across his shoulder blades inches up and down while he shrugs.
Three women, three generations, sit in teal tarnished chairs sharing stories over coffee. Their outfits are polished, their make up done and on a Sunday, this looks like their post-church tradition. The youngest is truly feminine, her ballerina bun set high on her head, her features are full, delicate and command attention. Such a contrast to the earthy beauty behind her but still, beautiful all the same. Glowing and refreshed, their features resemble one another to a ‘T’.
I truly sit and look at all the various dynamics occurring right next to each other and am in awe. I sit on this tattered, loved, beyond cozy couch and look out at a room full of strangers, interacting next to strangers that are everything BUT that to one another. At what point do we go from strangers to not? When do we go from familiar to strangers again? Little Lion Man strums in the back and I wonder if it’s in moments like this, over love for shared music. Glancing over and making eye contact with someone who is also singing every word to a song you cherish for your own reasons or if it’s sitting at a communal table and drinking the same kind of latte at the same time?
When do we all transition over from strangers to something more? In a shared space, in the same place with all kinds of stories to tell to people who will never know them unless we take the time to ask. This is called sonder. Being so aware of other people living their lives at the same time that you’re living yours and I am sure that nothing intrigues me more than this awareness and experience of watching others living out their vivid moments as I am creating within mine.