I wrote this with my Thursday night group with the prompts: how?, good for them, but what do you really want, Monday is for ones, be happy and smile, find love, she enjoyed the solitude, lunch friends, fellow misfits, Jimmy and Ted
“Good for them,” Celeste said when she heard about Mark and Marie’s engagement. She injected her voice with what she considered an appropriate amount of forced cheer. “Mark and Marie have always been such a cute couple,” she added, though she was thinking M&M—that’s what they’ll call themselves, M&M. Maybe they’ll even name all their children with the initial M. Millennials think crap like that is cute.
She continued to act happy and smile, sipping her iced tea from a tall glass. How? she thought. How did I end up here? First time out, just easing through a bit of pandemic-induced agoraphobia and she thought she’d just head over to Monday’s Café. It was well known that Monday’s catered to ones, not duos or trios, but the tribe of singles who are happy alone, like individually wrapped slices of cheese.
Monday’s was filled with tiny tables, each with a single chair, the perfect place to hunker down with a fat novel or a leather-bound journal or a sketch pad, where you can drink a beverage and nibble on a pastry and no one will bother you. No one will look at you or speak to you or wander by sniffing your cologne. No one will try to hawk flowers or press a religious tract into your hand or want you to answer a consumer questionnaire. Yet here she was, cornered by Marie’s mother Barbara who had spotted Celeste from across the room and just had to dart over to tell her about the upcoming nuptials. There were those in the neighborhood who called Barbara The Barbecue because her one love in life was grilling—as in cornering some poor unsuspecting fool and demanding she reveal every intimate detail of her life story. Barbara horded these stories like a form of cryptocurrency, doling them out to others like party favors. But today Barbara wasn’t grilling, she was serving up!—because she had her own story to share. Mark and Marie! Marie and Mark! M&M, Celeste thought. M&M Forever!
Celeste glanced over Barbara’s shoulder to note the pitying glances of her fellow misfits who had wandered in here to enjoy the solitude, yet enjoy it together. You see, Monday’s Café is a kind of half-way house for introverts who want the proximity of socializing without the actual socializing. Monday’s specialized in a kind of parallel play for grown-ups. You could sit with people but never feel a need to interact. You felt safe here. Or at least Celeste used to feel safe here. How did Barbara even get in?
“What about you, Celeste?” Barbara was saying now. “Have you ever thought of getting married?”
Celeste glanced up in horror. How could this even happen in Mondays? She tightened the grip on her glass of tea, wondering if Barbara might leave if somehow the icy liquid were to somehow end up on her shoe, or maybe even her pant leg? “Tell me, Celeste,” Barbara persisted. “What do you really want?”
At that a man at the next table stood up abruptly, knocking over his chair. “My good woman,” he said, addressing Celeste. “You have been much too tolerant.” He turned to Barbara. “This is Monday’s Café. This type of intrusive chatter is anathema to us here. Away with you now. Take your muffin and go. There is a Starbuck’s on the next block. Your ilk is better suited to that venue.”
Celeste was enthralled by this handsome stranger who had gallantly stepped up to defend the honor of the café, and her own love of silence. Barbara was stunned speechless, but every other face in the place was stifling a smug smile. The stranger signaled to Monday’s wait staff. Ted and Jimmy padded forward in their quiet crepe soled shoes and rushed Barbara toward the door. There was a wave of soft murmurs, appreciation and gratitude, and then the silence settled back over the café. Celeste stared at the gentleman and nodded her thanks. She gestured wordlessly. He smiled and pulled his own chair up to her tiny table. Would they become lunch friends? Celeste wondered. Or had she found love at last? They exchanged a meaningful gaze, and then resumed reading their respective novels.
Photo by Julia D. Alkmin at Unsplash