The Story That Is You

woman sitting on chair in front of table with two glasses with liquid inside
Tim Wright / Unsplash

A noisy London cafe on a cold winter’s day. The sun is nowhere to be seen, but the light slowly fades away, inviting in the darkness of the evening sky. It’s cold where we are; the constant flow of people hurrying in to escape it with a warm coffee has the door open more than it is closed. But, armed with tea and jackets, headphones on our ears, we soldier through the afternoon.

You are across from me at this small table that barely fits both of our laptops, let alone your tray of tea. The cold air blasts on us every few minutes, but you don’t stir. I look at you, perusing you the way you are perusing your laptop screen. I could sit and stare at you for the rest of our time here, just watching you work – watching your eyes flit around the screen and your pupils sharpening on the information you need to read, your fingers tapping away at the keyboard. You’re drawing a picture without making any effort, the complicated thoughts piecing together in your head reflecting in your eyes like a movie.

The concentration on your face, how it pulls me in deeper and deeper, inviting me to learn and infer more about you who is no stranger to me. The focused gaze that has your pupils sitting high up between your eyelids, your head tilted downward toward your screen, showing the ultimate focus. Every now and then, your eyebrows furrow a little and your jaw sharpens under your grizzly beard as you focus your attention.

You ordered a cup of a regular English Breakfast tea when we came in, and we set up a station so you could work uninterrupted and comfortably. It’s clear you are. You reach out your left hand, barely having to look for the cup sitting on the tray to your west, knowing its position almost perfectly. Your fingers wrap around the teacup and you carefully lift it up to your lips, never looking away from your screen. A gentle touch of your lips on the edge of the cup and you take a slow, sweet sip before setting it back down on the saucer so you can carry on tap tapping away with both your hands.

Suddenly you look up at me, but your eyes are lit up this time – the first time I have seen this in a few hours. This afternoon has been hard on you; I’ve missed seeing the light in the eyes which have been looking so lost and so sad. I’m sorry I couldn’t do more to bring that light back, but I’m glad something could fill the gap that I couldn’t. It’s nice to see and warms me up a little. “2-0,” you say, with your fingers shaped into a peace sign. You had been listening to the football commentary whilst working and its been going in your favor. A slight smile creeps onto your face as your mood brightens up.

You turn your attention back to the work in front of you and continue, but the slightly focused frown has lifted into a light smile, the corners of your lips turning up ever so slightly. Looking up to ceiling, you pout. I laugh a little – I can only wonder what it is you’re trying to figure out in your mind. Nevertheless, it’s cute. As you sit back down, your tongue sticking out slightly, sitting in between your lips. Again, it’s cute.

You’ve straightened up your back a little – I’ve always nagged about your posture. But you’re not just fixing your posture; the increased frequency of your tapping of the keys and your sharpened gaze shows me that you’re onto something now. You’ve cracked something. But then you slump back down – now to crack the next hurdle, I hope.

You pull back slightly to take a better look at the situation on the laptop screen, to get a better view of the information you’re decoding. You stop and take off your headphones, leaning forward to explain to me what has happened. I was right – you’ve found your game plan for a problem that was haunting your afternoon today, shadowing the optimistic person I know. Smiling from ear to ear, all I can hear is a melody in what you are saying, slightly smiling to yourself, knowing you have made a start. “Am I doing good?” you ask with a sample of that laugh I love so much.

You are doing good. You always have.

I feel so alive, so warm, being in this moment and sharing this in all its simplicity and contrast. The cafe still bustles around us, people moving in and out, trying to find their way around this busy city we call home, but everything slows down around you. It’s a different reality, a different zone and the world around us disappears. You are what is beautiful, you are what is love. With you here, not saying a word, allowing me to read you and your movements, all I feel is attraction and adoration. Every time I sneak a gaze up at you from my laptop screen, a smile can’t help but creep up on my face – it’s useless trying to hide it. So I just sit and continue staring, reading and deciphering the story sat across from me, the story that is you. TC mark

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