I sit here in a tiny coffee house and I wonder about you. I wonder about the faceless strangers around me, huddled over warm mugs and books and click-clacking on laptops. What are their life stories? Where have they come from? Where will they go? What’s their personality like and what is pestering their minds?
I wonder little things about them. Do they have a wife? How did they meet? Kids? Where are they now; what’s their favorite sport; when’s their birthday? Where do they work? Why are they here in this little coffee shop? Why have I happened upon them?
Two businessmen are talking about their work; a young woman, maybe a student, sits with an insulated mug and a book. An employee quietly chows down on some Chinese takeout, hugged and observed by walls stuffed with books.
A small street runs parallel to my window and I watch the cars go by. To and fro, to and fro. A newly constructed apartment building sits just beyond, embedded in the old downtown, nestled between seventy-or-eighty-or-a-hundred-year-old brick buildings that used to be mill houses and such.
This little bookstore has low ceilings, telling of the fact that it, too, is an old building, though newly renovated. Seafoam mint painted walls with plumed lights mounted on the walls. Large windows trimmed with white frames mirror each other down the length of the building. I feel like I sit in a very still train.
Cooking and country life books stand flip-flapped and sit stacked on the shelves beside me.
I observe all this, I see all this, but it is all snowglobe-like. Sitting here feels like reading a book about a young orphan girl who lives in a cottage and who picks flowers in a field brightly dotted with daisies and dandelions when the sun is high at midday. Or a story of a girl who sits at the foot of a wide, spreading oak, which shades her as the wind plays with her hair and as she reverently flips the pages of her favorite novel, drinking in the words of Emily Dickinson. Or even of a sea crew drunkenly singing and living in the belly of a beautiful vessel, beer sloshing about out of the glass mugs they hold as they dance while the sea rocks them to fantastical insanity.
We’ve all read stories like these, but don’t we wonder if strangers ever feel the same way deep within them? Yearning for Scottish fields or high seas or bouquets of roses and Elizabethan dresses. I wonder how many of us live with these worlds inside of us, deeply embedded and we exist–we live every day–awaiting the small moments when those pieces of us are awakened and we feel fully alive, yet wholly dreaming, and envelopingly hopeful. When “real life” falls away and we dream of other worlds, letting our imagination whisk us away to what life could be.
Falling asleep back to reality feels so dull and hurtful after that. We leave these little coffee shops and bookstores with an ache in our hearts. We whisper farewells to the lands it holds within, as we walk out the many-times-repaired door, awaiting the day we can come back again. We wonder when these worlds can be awoken again, and if we ever could live within them… buy some land and build a cottage and sit on the porch in a rocking chair as we feel the gentle breeze and hear the sweet whinnies of our horses in the field, Jasper the cat sitting curled at our feet and life is right, life is good, and the tea smells like heaven’s city and tastes like paradise on earth.
But for now, we’ll sit in these little libraries and bookshops and drown in the scent of books, surrounded by walls of novels that transport us to other worlds and different times with their enchanting spells. And I’ll wonder about all these strangers, and whether they feel this, too… and what world they’ll go back to when they leave this haven’s walls.