Thick Summer Air

She always forgets that the door pushes in and not out; or is it the other way around. Either way, she makes her way into this little hole in the wall coffee place, Meshuggah’s. It’s an old Yiddish term for being foolish or crazy, which all the people sitting outside are like. The inside, however, is filled with Grad students from Wash U sipping coffee as they write their latest paper and a group of young men stand at the tiny counter where Dennis, the only person working this afternoon, hovers. It is Fat Tire Tuesday and they want their cheap beer. A few of them turn around; eyeing her tan legs and whatever else is formed under the orange sundress that she wears on this sticky hot day. A blush creeps up her neck and she awkwardly looks away, avoiding eye contact with them. Pushing each other out of the way and running into a few of the over worked Grad students, the counter is now free. Dennis is taking his time crafting the most tantalizing sandwiches one will ever have the pleasure of knowing, with layers of sundried tomato, warm Gouda, lettuce and a sauce whose contents are even a mystery to him. Leaning against the counter he sees her and nods in a way that tells her that he’ll get her Iced Thai Coffee out in a moment.

“I’ll be outside,” she calls to him, laying a 5 on the counter before making her way into the muggy summer air. She pulls a pack of cigarettes out and places her purse on the second hand patio furniture that litters the sidewalk outside the coffee shop before taking a seat. Her addiction has gotten out of hand and she knows she needs to quit but she still pulls the lighter out to light the death stick that is elegantly placed between her fingers. Crossed legs make every passerby stare while on their way to work or to just get their caffeine fix. Everyone clustered on the sidewalk is engrossed in conversation about Russian literature they’ve never read, the latest foreign film playing down the street or how hand rolled cigarettes are better for you than non hand rolled ones. The lazy talk floats thick in the air when an engine cuts them off. Nick’s motorcycle pulls in front of the dirty coffee shop and everyone stops for a micro second and stares as he hops off and lazily strolls towards her, planting a chaste kiss on the top of her head. Her legs uncross then cross again as he takes a seat next to her. The rickety table barely can contain his helmet and creaks under it. Dennis comes out; her Iced Thai Coffee in one hand and a glass of water for Nick in the other. Nick retrieves his own pack of cigarettes from his shirt pocket and playfully takes the lighter from her hands to light up.

Dennis smokes with them, speaking idly about the day while leaving the coffee shop unattended but not seeming to notice doing so. A cool breeze blows her skirt playfully in the summer air while chuckling at the absurdity of the people surrounding them. They claim to know things, but they can’t even name what state or city their beer is made in (Fort Collins, Colorado if you really want to know) or describe their future beyond community college.

The difference between the Grad students only a windowpane away and them is profound. One group wants to excel in life and leave the mundane city in order to do great things. These things are never talked about or mentioned in passing, but you can see it in their sleep deprived eyes that this is what they want. Lack of a social life is fine and dandy for them as long as their school work is taken care of. Ideas that they think in this tiny place will be remembered for years to come. They will see places like India, Thailand, Africa, Paris and Berlin. They will know the world inside and out.

The others, however, are all talk. With cheap cigarettes burning their fingers yellow, all they care about is the image they portray. Hipster jargon spews from over talked mouths consisting of trips never taken, women they can only get with in their dreams and plans to “get the fuck out of this town” that will only take place in their mind. Ignoring the ash trays, cigarette butts are left abandoned at their feet for someone else to pick up. Ideas for this bunch are not too hard to find, but they are simple and easy and only a handful will actually do them.

She takes a sip of the sweet coffee and silently mocks the density of the people before her. Sounding like hens clucking along and agreeing with everything the other says. Regurgitating books rather than thinking their own thoughts. Half the books they talk about anyway are fed to them through word of mouth; their eyes never really looking at words on the page.

The sun begins to make its descent over the meager buildings and the Thai Coffee has been reduced to a watery coffee puddle at the bottom of her cup. Worn-out grad students shuffle out of the coffee place, hoping to get a little sleep before their 8 AM class the next morning. The dreamers linger a while longer, talking to the homeless men that have emerged from further up the street, asking for a cigarette or spare change. They will act like they feel their pain, but in reality as soon as they are lost in the darkness they pull out an iPhone to check on the time. She scoffs at them.

Nick kisses her once more, his mouth hungry for what is expected later. She pulls away too soon, reinforcing that fact that she is not going to sleep with him. He goes on to gripe about the other motorcyclists in the area and how they’re just waiting to be killed for lack of a helmet. Placing her hand on his, she tells him to shush and to just enjoy the night air.

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