Friends meet for chess.
A girl walks in off the street. Her gait is strong after several miles.
1 friend rolls up his sleeves while the other sets the pieces.
The girl sits at a table. Half her body hanging off a bench, she leans forward and reads the menu.
1 friend taps the other’s hand to see who will move first. The other friend opens his hand to reveal a pawn.
This is their offline time.
A man walks in after parking his car and nearly blinding everyone before turning off his headlights. He recognizes 1 of the people in the middle of a chess game.
“It’s been a long time.”
The chess player says,
“It has. Well, we’ve kept up on Facebook.”
They shake hands and part ways. He goes straight to the back of the café, where there’s an outdoor patio for cigarette smokers.
The girl has decided what she wants. She goes to the counter and orders some kind of drink that isn’t beer.
The barista makes her drink with some latte art. When she sees the monkey face swimming on the surface of her drink, she laughs so hard that 1 of her legs kicks back. I notice a piece of pink gum flattened into the worn tread.
I turn to Bridget and ask what time it is.
“30 more minutes.”
I immediately understand that it’s 4:30PM.
Bridget is working on some kind of spreadsheet.
I’m looking straight into my WordPress dashboard, writing like mad, like I can maybe help the world a little. This is the only word processor I know anymore. Whenever I write on Word it’s like I’m writing on a piece of paper.
1 of the chess players tilts his head back and claps his hands.
The other chess player leans his nose closer to the board. He looks at the checkered lanes and sees that he has indeed lost.
I stand to use the bathroom. Actually, I’ve already returned from the bathroom, that’s how I’m writing this.
On my way out, I looked at the bulletin board where people post different events going on in Austin.
Last week I left a handmade sticker for The Open End. A little advertisement can’t hurt.
Rather than stick it, seeing as this was a bulletin board, I pinned it with a thumbtack right above the thermostat.
But today I don’t see anything. It kind of hurts, not seeing my handmade sticker.
I didn’t think my sticker would be taken down.
I didn’t think it was doing any harm or that it was so big it had to been taken down.
Maybe the Green Muse coffee shop went online to The Open End, read a few crazy stories, and decided it wouldn’t be smart to endorse such a promiscuous website? Or maybe they simply saw my sticker and felt insulted by its presence and immediately took it off and tossed it.
Either way, I shouldn’t take it personally. Bulletin boards aren’t museum walls, and even museum walls go through a rotation.
“What time is it?”
Bridget finishes the cell she’s working on in her spreadsheet and looks at the time in the top right-hand corner of her screen.
“It’s Happy Hour.”
We get 2 pints of IPAs straight from the tap. The coils in Green Muse make for cold and wholesome beer.
Bridget is a hop-head. Before loving her, I was partial to dark beers, but she turned me toward the beauty of IPAs.
She even knows the history of their origin. Pretty interesting stuff.
“I love how coffee shops in Austin also serve beer.”
“Me, too. It’s a beautiful thing.”
She sets her beer on the table and gets back to work on her spreadsheet. I ask how much more she has to do before tomorrow. Bridget looks at me with a discouraged facial expression. I squeeze her thigh to show my full love and support. I massage her neck muscles. Her facial expression becomes a lot happier.
1 of the chess players says,
“If you go here, my knight will get you. If you go here, my queen. If you go here, my rook. Yep, that’s checkmate.”
The other chess player leans back in his chair and wipes his face with his palms and breathes hard out his nose. He almost loses his balance. He has to catch himself with his toes. His face turns red from imminent danger.
“Play again next week?”
His friend says,
“If I’m in town, sure.”
The gracious loser rolls up the chessboard and throws the pieces into a bag that tightens with a string.
This is their offline time.
The girl with the pink gum stuck on 1 of her shoes finishes her drink and takes Cup & Saucer to the Dirty Dish Bin. She carries nothing else in her hands, not even a cell phone. I try to discern something in her pockets, some revealing shape that would keep her connected to cyberspace at all times, but her pockets are flat.
The barista smiles to let her know she’s welcome.
I watch her walk across the café and pull open the door. I can hear the pink gum sticking slightly on the tile floor every other footfall. Outside, she looks both ways and begins her walk to wherever. Her gait isn’t strong yet, but by the time she crosses Oltorf St she’s steamrolling.