Thank you to Portland, Oregon poet, Gail Brooks, for the flash non-fiction piece: Labyrinth.
First swallows of coffee down, my eyes begin to widen just a bit. I’m having a quick breakfast at a local favorite spot and leisurely checking out the familiar surroundings. The place is kind of a mess as usual–stuff piled up, somehow functional, not particularly attractive –but comfortable and welcoming and, most importantly, the food sings. It’s always crowded, suggesting that others may find what I find here.
The woman sitting at the table next to me is completely engrossed in her computer to the point that her breakfast is sitting there untouched. Since I’m really hungry, I’m tempted to ask if she’s going to eat and if not, slide it over, please. Get a grip, I ruefully smile to myself, remembering that my own breakfast will be arriving any minute..
Three women on my other side are avidly engaged in conversation about the coming school year. Clearly they are teachers–the eldest is a veteran, trying to offer suggestions to the younger women without overwhelming them. Their responsive smiles tinged with hysteria give a clue that perhaps she’s not being completely successful. Absorb what she’s saying, I silently say to the younger ones. She’s sharing some wisdom worth having. Remember it when the classroom door closes behind you and the judgement you’ll need to rely on will be your own. But you’ll come to know that.
My breakfast arrives and I dig in, leaving my dining companions to their own worlds. The scramble is delicious as usual and the biscuits with raspberry jam do literally melt in my mouth. I smile to myself and reflect that the cafe’s magnet for me is its consistency. In a world of continual surprise, it’s comforting to have a few things to count on.
As I’m sipping the last of my coffee, I notice another woman gazing into some private vision, a half-smile warming her face. I wonder what she’s thinking; it looks like it’s giving her a lovely moment, whatever it is. I watch for awhile and then leave her to what the daydreams hold.
It occurs to me that all of these women are familiar. The parts of them that I witness today live within me as well. In that sense I truly know who they are, what they’re experiencing at this moment in time. I feel a kinship with each of them as we seek what is around the next bend.