I was in love here
Waiting for the #3
They stand in line
She beside he
His name she may never know
Her smile he will not forget
One of my favourite Tom Waits’ characters.
Please feel free to read along to the video clip (courtesy of the YouTube channel owner).
‘The Crooked Tree’
Once upon a time there was a crooked tree and a straight tree and they grew next to each other. And every day the straight tree would look at the crooked tree and say “You’re crooked, you’ve always been crooked and you’ll continue to be crooked. But look at me, look at me!” Said the straight tree, he said “I’m tall and I’m straight. “
Then one day the lumberjacks came into the forest and looked around; and the manager in charge said “Cut all the straight trees!” And that crooked tree is still there to this day, growing strong and growing strange.
When I was a young boy living in the shared bedroom at the old family home, my brother and I would jump across from one bed to the other, convinced that the more we did this, vast super powers of flight were being stowed upon us and that he and I would become eventually, the crime fighting superhero double act! This of course and unfortunately never came into fruition, …
The early morning rush had ended. The line-up for coffee had extended out the door for about 25 minutes. It was just before 10am and the coffee shop had settled into a quiet hum of activity behind the counter and the faint sound of an oldies program was playing on a tinny radio. I heard the sound of a chair scraping across the hardwood floor and realized I was not alone. At the table behind me sat a tall, classically handsome, well-dressed young man; clean shaven and crisp. His choice in tie was well paired with the colour of his shirt (I considered my own wardrobe). Handsome boy was busy with his phone, head down and stern faced, oblivious to the physical world. I remembered he had arrived before the coffee rush, which was fortunate as his credit card had been declined for his small dark roast drip coffee. Oh the agony of waiting behind someone who has to go through their entire collection of plastic debt to make a $2 purchase. It’s even worse when you’re the person scrambling to make the payment.
The shop door opened and a gust of winter whirled through the coffee shop. A young lady entered and headed straight to the counter. She made a complicated order and was very specific about the temperature of her pseudo coffee, whip cream extravaganza and where and how thick the low fat cream cheese needed to be spread on her slightly toasted multi-grain bagel. I paid her little mind, returned to my coffee and continued to people watch through the foggy window. The young lady glanced over at the young man behind me as she made her way to the table in the other corner of the shop where they had an old plush, overstuffed couch; in front, a small coffee table much too low for the couch. I noticed she was wearing tight yoga pants, which apparently is why Vancouver women have only been ranked the sixth most beautiful women in the world. I honestly don’t mind the yoga pants; I don’t think any men do. Her order was brought to her and fortunately it was to her satisfaction. I really didn’t want to see what might happen if they messed it up.
Behind me I could hear the young man fidgeting. His leg was pumping vigorously with quick small movements, shaking his coins and keys and wobbling the table. He was now focused on an employment paper. His leg a blur of crisp charcoal pleats, he would check his phone every minute or so; an expression of disappointment wrinkling his forehead each time.
The windows had completely fogged up at this point, except for the trickles of condensation that were jerkily racing towards the bottom. I’d given up on people watching at this point. The tinny radio host was in the middle of telling an amusing anecdote about the song he was about to play. He ended the anecdote with what sounded like a catch phrase ~ and now you know the rest of the story ~ but I had missed the first part.
Again the shop door swung open, but this time it wasn’t a fleeting cold draft. The shop temperature quickly cooled as we waited for Mister Inconsiderate to stomp and splash his boots endlessly on the saturated door mat. Why he needed to keep the door open is beyond me. We were all paying attention to him. The young man seemed to recognize him, but quickly put his paper down and turned his full attention to his phone.
It was too late; Mister Inconsiderate had noticed the young man too. He nodded, and the young man returned the gesture. While Mister Inconsiderate was making his order, the young man tucked the paper he had been reading into his square black leather messenger bag.
Coffee in hand, Mister Inconsiderate made his way over to the young man. This should be interesting, I thought. Mister Inconsiderate was a big man. Mature and weathered. He wore white painter jeans, multi-coloured paint splatter all up the front of them. He had forgotten the young man’s name; the young man had not forgotten his. The last time they had seen each other was at a mutual friends baby shower five or six years back. Neither of them had spoken with their mutual friend since. Mister Inconsiderate explained how he had started up his own painting company. Four employees and steady business, considering the time of year. Always a struggle to get good pricing on paint.
The young man let his old friend carry on. And he did, like many men in their late thirties, explaining their career choice and how it was probably for the best, or if only this or that hadn’t happened. Mister Inconsiderate started on about his plans for the upcoming summer season. He’s going to hire two more staff; train them himself. Unsurprisingly the young man’s attention slowly (and carefully) returned to his phone.
Mister Inconsiderate turned the conversation to the young man and asked what he was doing now. The young man cleared his throat and said he was in insurance, an independent agent. Mister Inconsiderate looked impressed and said that he doesn’t know much about that kind of stuff. Handsome boy smiled. He was mentioning that he had recently finished writing an exam for his licence when his phone vibrated. This time when he looked up from his phone his brow softened and his smile widened. He apologized to Mister Inconsiderate and said he’d been waiting for that email and had to leave. They exchanged pleasantries and confirmed they both were on Facebook.
As the young man left and the door slowly closed, I finished the last of my coffee and with my sleeve I wiped a port hole through the foggy window and watched him walk towards the subway station. Was he happy to receive that email because it was an excuse to leave an uncomfortable situation, or had it validated his story about his work?