Silent Observation: Setting the Scene in Cal Young

“It is!” she says, with an open mouth laugh to her male friend. Then she turns to the barista and says “Can I get a grande white mocha?”

The smell of coffee floods the nostrils of every customer. Vague human smells float around with the other people. Deodorant, stinky diapers… the smells collectively represent average people. Only the first sip of coffee matters because it scalds the tongue and renders it useless for tasting for the rest of the drink.

There are three pairs of middle-aged women sprinkled around the shop, clutching clean white coffee cups and gabbing about life.

There is an older man sitting along writing at a table. Or rather, he is sitting with a pencil and paper and he is gazing upward. His coffee sits almost untouched.

A young boy leans into the window filled with pastries and calls out “I want a brownie!… wait… I want…” and he utters something inaudible, lost in the commotion of the shop. His father pauses, waiting for him to finish and then says “Okay…” and orders him a double chocolate brownie. After they sit down the father eats a fruit bowl and occasional generous bites of his son’s brownie.

A red-haired lady with a nametag leans into one of the pairs of middle-aged women and says, “Marilyn. Is that right?”


“I rented from her for 6 months,” she says to the other lady at the table. “Or was it longer?” she asks, turning back to Marilyn.

“Yeah,” Marilyn answered.

“I just had to say hi. I’m still working as a hospital chaplin.”

“Good for you. You didn’t get cut?”

“It’s a long story.”

The young man at the cash register keeps his composure as the hoard of customers call out orders above the competing conversations. Although he stays call it seems like he might be about to burst, just like the little red pimple on his temple.

An older couple with matching white sneakers and dark-rimmed glasses and cropped grey strands of hair framing their faces share a scone on a little white plate.

A young couple sits near them. The girl has long brown hair and a teal, flowy top. Her big, brown eyes tense when she talks. It appears that if they break eye contact or smile the date will be over. She plays with her hair obsessively and the red-haired boy has rigid posture and seems to agree with everything she says.

The writer shoves his twisted wrapper into his now empty coffee cup and takes off his glasses. He packs his papers into a comically small black backpack and walks out.

A girl takes the writer’s place. She has a light pink sweater, medium blond hair swept into a braid, and sandals with socks. She puts in her earbuds and lays out her homework meaningfully. But her phone buzzes and she spends a moment looking at the screen and typing something. Then she sips her coffee. She rearranges her homework. Then she returns to her phone. And repeat. But seriously.

Four women cover a table with papers and books. One brunette is very pregnant. One has on scrubs. One has on sweatpants that say “Love.” Another brunette has a nifty water bottle. They talk about their boyfriends for ten minutes before launching into a dedicated study session. “The IV goes in like this, no, around like this. The artery carries it away, yes, from the heart.”

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