There’s nothing better than ordering a tall Youthberry, with a shot of classic. Hot tea is one of the few drinks the barista will make immediately. I always get it before I leave the counter.
If I’m inside, I find a seat near the back of the café where there’s an outlet. If I’m outside, then I’m right by the door. Either way, I follow the same ritual: 1) take the top off my tea so that it can cool to a consumable temperature; 2) unpack my MacBook, log onto the WiFi, and answer the question of the day; and depending on how loud the patrons are 3) plug in my ear buds and select Film Scores on Pandora. Something about listening to The Lord of the Rings soundtrack helps me focus.
But on this day, I decided to ditch the headphones. I’d observe my surroundings instead.
Directly in front of me, a Spanish-speaking couple met with a bilingual man. The cellphone conversation he’d had five minutes before they arrived was in English and full of laughter. As soon as the couple sat down, his tone changed. Eleven years of the romance language didn’t help me interpret their discussion, but the seriousness in the air led me to believe it was an important topic. Was he a professional translator? Had someone recommended him? Were they in trouble?
I’d never know.
On the left side of me a couple met with a realtor. The middle-aged white man and his Asian-looking wife had moved from Seattle to Jacksonville. Years ago, they’d lived overseas. I wondered if they were former military. Where “overseas” had they lived? Why did they choose Jacksonville over Seattle?
“So are y’all ready?” the bright-eyed realtor asked.
“Yep,” the husband replied, “It’s time for a house.”
I’ve come to accept my nosey-ness as a positive trait that allows me to observe and then write detailed descriptions of people. But it was time to be productive.
Just when I’d settled in to read and respond to blogs, I saw them.
“You’re not old enough to be line leader,” he said.
She snatched her tiny, pale, white hand away and attempted to sprint to the edge of the sidewalk. Her legs failed her. He reached for her small arm with his free hand, while the other held firmly to his more well-behaved, five year-old daughter’s right hand.
First he praised the two year old, “I admire your tenacity,” and then, he reprimanded her, “but no.”
The two little girls remained on either side of their dad, hand-in-hand, dawdling their way down the sidewalk and out of my view.
I was sure they were middle class simply because he used the word “tenacity.” Did they live in the new development that peeked through the space between Nordstrom’s and Bento? Did the girls have traditional names, like Emma and Gracie? Or had they gone more trendy, Bailey and Zoe?
It was probably a mix. Zoe was the runner and Emma was the oldest. Zoe wanted her bedroom to be painted deep purple, but they’d convinced her that fuchsia was just as amazing. Emma never posed a problem, going along with whatever her parents wished. Her room was light pink, with a matching flowered duvet and pillow covers.
Their mom was at home taking a well-deserved break from her orchestrated life.
“Why don’t you take Emma and Zoe to the mall?” she suggested.
He was happy to help out. But, next time he’d ask his wife to come along. She’d have to seek rest elsewhere.
Real people inspire me to write. I’ve looked over at the person next to me on the highway and made up an entire short story with characters, backstory, and plot. Am I the only one who does this? Do you look at people and wonder what’s going on with their lives? Where does your writing inspiration come from?