On my drive here I saw a girl dressed in black pants and a pink shirt with a fanny pack. She was crossing the intersection in front of me, and as I slowed to a stop, so did she. I stopped at the designated white line painted on the road accompanying the stop sign, to avoid hitting her and oncoming traffic. She stopped in the middle of the street, where people are not supposed to stop, where there is no designated sign or line, to thumb her phone. If I were a heedless driver, she would have splattered as her phone cracked my windshield. Good thing I’m not.
As I enter the evil big business coffee shop I take in my surroundings. The amount of blonde is overwhelming. The store is packed with customers (why do so many people drink coffee at 4pm?). At least half are women, and each one has blonde hair.
I notice one of the workers isn’t blonde, but her auburn dye job is obvious.
A group of younger girls come in and one of them is brunette.
One newcomer has only blonde tips.
We’ve become more dynamic. A little.
I decide to look for a table better suited for spying on my subjects. One of the few brunettes thinks I’m a monster or something. I know from the look on her face. I shoot her a timid smile and she leaves her mouth hanging open, but keeps her eyes on me. I picture a scene from one of those old books or movies where the townsfolk stampede down to the monster’s den with pitchforks in hand.
The only blonde man in our bunch notices my awkward disposition and saves me from a possible fight to the death. He tells me he is leaving and offers his table. I tell him I couldn’t see well enough from my previous table in the front; that I am trying to write about my surroundings sans adverbs. I admit to spying on him and the other customers, but he doesn’t seem to mind.
I settle into my new table as most of the newcomers leave. 11 customers remain, including myself. There are five men total, all sitting along the wall and all on their computers. They have fancy laptop bags to keep their belongings organized. I don’t; my technology is free and bulky and clumsy. The women (who have become blonde again) are gossiping. The girls appear to be studying. The monster-killer is holding note-cards.
Everyone is clad in sweatshirts, including myself. It’s a dreary day. Rain on the horizon.
The old newcomers are replaced with new newcomers who are all too busy to sit. An older man with a Bluetooth connected to his ear walks up to the tall counter (bar? whatever it’s called). He mumbles something into the device as he walks past me to the bathroom. His hair is white. Close enough to blonde.
The blonde barista is yelling out someone’s order. Your overpriced but delicious coffee is ready!
I’ve fallen in love with a woman in tight black jeans, a referee-striped tank and gray flats. Her hair is blonde. Long and blonde. Like mine only not as grimy. She has tattoos, but I can’t make them out.
She’s gone. So long, dear stranger love.
The rush has ended. The 11 of us are alone again. I watch the other 10 — the monster-killer and her two blonde friends and their note-cards at the table in front of mine; the five men along the wall with their computers; and the two blonde gossiping women who have infiltrated the men’s sanctuary by sitting at the last open wall-adjacent table. Everyone notices. The general mood seems to shift. The air thins. Get out of there, blonde women! The angry mob will soon have their pitchforks!
Oh, right, I was talking about clothes. Everyone is in hoodies. I’m also wearing gray sweatpants with a giant hole in the crotch, and a Jesus Loves Porn Stars shirt with two burn holes on the left shoulder. No one else is dressed like this. The men favor cargo pants and black t-shirts. This way no one can tell who’s professional and who’s a thug. Indistinguishable. The girls fit the teenage stereotype in tight leggings and shirts that send a loud message. Blaring. The women feed into the stigma of middle age by wearing capris and solid-color blouses. Unadulterated. I don’t pay attention to the shoes.
We’re all in the same wooden chairs, leaning on the same wooden tables, drinking our drink of choice made by the same hands. All the men are brunette and all the girls are blonde, except for the monster-killer. She’s the weird one, not me.
So why do their eyes show a suspicion laced with disgust; something uninviting? Why do I feel like I don’t belong?
Because I always do.
I grab my cup of ice and caramel (the coffee disappeared after the first paragraph) and my laptop and purse and head for the door before they realize I’m an impostor. Crap, I’ve left my rebellious laptop charger on the floor, instead of in a bag where it belongs. I double back for it and hear the sound of pitchforks. I shuffle across the room again, and as I dash through the door, one of them pricks me.
Or maybe it’s all in my head.