And nothing calms more than a Friday night in a French cafe, overlooking Washington Square Park. At the corner of startup and ’69, the sun lingers lazily (as it so cliched-ly does) over the pulsating limbs of Monterey Pines, and the sun sets behind chilly tourists and bustling locals as they move to their meal, their mistress, or their next martini. A golden glow fitted by the fog settles over North Beach, and the sea-birthed wind sweeps across the parked Teslas and Vespas that cross continents and generations of dreamers and schemers. An unexpectedly calm evening and chilly wind places me gingerly in a corner booth, a drink for one, a moment for me. Acoustic semi-francophone music brings a smile to my lips and a mischievous glance to my eye.
I’m flying solo and decently attractive – a near-30 blue-eyed firecracker with an expressive face and a ready laugh, but not turning any heads. I’m seated near the window, placed at the front of a half filled restaurant, in front of passing crowds. My glass of red sits lazily beside my iPad, as I struggle with the non-touch and sound, getting used to the fact that I am typing on glass and nothing else.
They seat another woman next to me — younger, more pulled together than I. Whereas I enjoy my bright blue Adidas (complimented by the waitress, I must add), pants normally relegated to lazy Sundays and sick days, with hair hastily twisted into something that resembles a style, she is perfect. On-trend chambray, delicate blush and perfectly tousled hair. She sits facing the window while I position myself sideways (I tell myself that facing out seems intimate, voyeuristic, confrontational, but really I just hadn’t thought of sitting forwards.)
The staff from the next-door haberdashery come outside for a smoke, styled and coiffed in just-so trousers and rascally grins. I think of my fine lines and an extra ten pounds. My also-solo companion’s makeup is perfect. I worry about ragged cuticles, and being the weird girl typing in the corner of the restaurant. An accordion comes over the stereo and I think of Amelie and creme brûlée and studying in France and being 19. The waitress smiles at me across the room.
It could be 1920, or 1950, or 2030, depending on the technology and how often people look at their phones. San Francisco whirs around me, and I drink my wine. And write my story. And sink into stillness, and peace, and nostalgia. Creativity comes from melancholy, from thoughtfulness. And I sit alone on a Friday night, adoring the window pane laced twinkly lights and comrade-in-solo.
Unfortunately, she’s brisk with the waitress, to the point of rude and abrupt, and I look down at my virtual Vanity Fair and drown myself in Wolcott and Fanfair. After paying the bill and downing her glass of Shiraz, she leaves, perfectly belted trench coat flapping in the wind as she urgently strides north.
I order another glass. The sky is on fire.
(Originally appeared on Resident Wayfarer)