I see him in Starbucks often. He’s always smartly dressed. Dressy-casual plaid button down shirt. Coordinating casual blazer. Shoes neat, shiny, new. Matching belt. Aviator glasses. “Crisp,” I think. “Together.”
Most days I sit near the door while he sits at the high-tops in the back. His meetings are all business. Brisk conversations. Buying and selling. Firm tones. Self-assured movements.
Today the only open seating was at the high-tops in the back. I sat, staring at my laptop, brows knit in concentration. I didn’t notice when he took the table next to mine.
“Hey there, Happy New Year,” he said. We’d never spoken before, only exchanged polite, short nods of recognition for other Starbucks regulars.
I smiled, a small, tight smile, brows still knit. I was on the verge of figuring out the answer to the question that had been plaguing me all morning.
“This is my first day back to work,” he continues, conversational, chatty. I glance up from my notes, surprised. He has never struck me as friendly. Nor chatty. He seems like the hard lines drawn with a newly sharpened pencil and the metal edge of a ruler over a blank page. Even, flowing lines, criss-crossing the page in a precise way, getting from Point A to Point B without interruption.
“Oh?” I reply. I try to appear friendly and open, not annoyed at being disturbed. I’ve learned to be open to new conversations, new people, because opportunity often disguises itself as inconvenience.
Ten minutes later I have learned many things about my outwardly-put-together Starbucks buddy. He owns his own aerospace company. He spent the holidays in Mexico with his father, where he owns a vacation home. He’s going through a divorce and she’s making things difficult because he’s the one who left, who ended it before she was ready. He has two daughters who are taking the break up better than their parents. He’s angry that his ex is taking the breakup so hard. He’s angry that she wants to uproot his daughters and move them to a different city and he’ll fight that as long as he needs to. His company builds rockets and missiles. His ex is too controlling and lives life too rigidly and he doesn’t want the rest of his life to be so tightly bound. He’s adopted.
The conversation ends when his father arrives. I’m left wondering at the deluge of information swirling around my head, my feet. I find myself thinking less about what was said and wondering more about what he left UNsaid. The deeper undercurrents. The fragments of the breakup swept under the rug. The pauses and redirections.
I have no desire to be party to a stranger’s drama. Next time I’ll stick the to tables in the front.