Sitting in a Café Waiting for the Music to Begin

by Marlene DeVere

She sat alone in a corner of the café, toying with her pearlescent necklace that for fifty years held a special place in her jewelry box. Her gray hair curled around the collar of her well-worn sweater. She was always cold these days, even in the middle of summer.

She kept fussing with the items on the table—moving the sugar and cream about and sweeping unseen crumbs to the floor—all the while her thoughts were on the young man who seemed to be deliberately walking toward her.

He came from across the huge expanse of age and logic. The smile in his eyes almost won her over right then and there. His thighs, sheathed in khaki shorts, rubbed together slightly as he picked up his stride towards her, becoming more attractive with each step.

Yes, he’d do for a one and done, she thought. Foolish girl; rein it in. One never knows what lurks…I’d like to find out, though. 

The noise in the café grew louder as the college crowd placed their orders for mocha coffees and sweet teas. He had to sidestep a couple who weren’t looking where they were walking and ended up knocking over a chair. The upheaval didn’t distract his concentration.

We’d go to the opera together, she imagined, and make up words to La Traviata that only we would understand. We’d giggle conspiratorially all the while fantasizing what would come next.

They’d fall in lust and lose control, she hoped. She could almost taste him as she savored her coffee. Fittingly, he doesn’t suspect or even care that a friendly word would be all that was needed to edge her to the dark side.

He seemed contemplative as he continued to stroll in her direction. His head bopped rhythmically as though he was listening to “Moves Like Jagger,” but his eyes remained on her.

Or, we’d go dancing.

As he came closer to her table, she saw his slim build and muscled shoulders under his t-shirt emblazoned with the words, “Dance Like No One’s Watching.” She smiled. Maybe he could read her mind?

Her thoughts returned to the music of her youth as she imagined being swept off her feet and twirled and whirled around and round until she collapsed from the sheer excitement of it all and he carried her to his lair.

Then, at the most inconvenient moment, her daydream was interrupted. “Excuse me, Ma’am, if you’re not using the cream, could I have it? My girlfriend drinks it with a dash of coffee,” he added chuckling.

“Yes, of course.”

So, no dancing then?

She handed him the unused cream pitcher with a smile. She’s been there before— thankful, at least, for the brief flights of fancy. She sighed as he departed and resumed sipping her cold cup of black caffeine.

Marlene DeVere

What is the significance of this work to you?

No matter our age, and sometimes to our astonishment, we find all sorts of people alluring. Whether or not the feeling is reciprocated is of no issue. What is significant is that our temptations and desires never age out. I met a lovely woman in a nursing home who was in her late 80s suffering from some form of dementia. She was being courted by another resident, a man of sound mind but with physical limitations, in his mid-90s. Both were widowed and you could see how much he cared for her. She was pleased by the attention but I’m not sure she understood the magnitude of his devotion to her. Their story had an expected ending, but oh, how wonderful they experienced a new love in their last throes of life. As long as they lived, they desired to love and be loved. 

As we all do.

What is the significance of the form you chose for this work?

The prose is part poetry man and part woman on the verge with music a subtle, yet integral, undercurrent in this story. It is, after all, a part of life’s rhythm. Music can inspire our movement and arouse our desires. This tale reflects upon Verdi’s opera, La Traviata, about a fallen woman who ultimately suffers rejection. The woman in the café, who is of a ‘certain age,’ appreciates the dance-like swagger of the much younger man who is approaching her. Her thoughts that he Moves Like Jagger echo the lyrics in that song about a man with sexual prowess. He unknowingly whets her imagination and this story.

What was your process for creating this work?

My writing process began with the title and first sentence based on a thought that seemed to drift in from the ether and made me smile. When that happens, I get lost in the moment and I have no control at all over what my fingers on the keyboard write. I simply cannot shut them up. I was amazed at the thoughts that appeared and the feelings that were expressed in the story. Those are the best of times when I don’t have to ponder the how or why a story reveals itself with a life of its own. When the writing finally works, it’s just pure joy.

Since retiring from a career in teaching, broadcast journalism and advertising, Marlene DeVere is enjoying living under Arizona's kaleidoscope skies and working on a collection of stories. She has been published in Lalitamba Journal, tiny essays, Scarlet Leaf Review and The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature.