The steam from the coffee resting between her hands on the table warmed her face and called her back from her reverie. She’d been staring out the window, her mind years and miles from this small cafe, yet the feeling of the memory made it feel like only days ago.
She gave her head a forceful shake and noted that her jaw was clenched tight, her nails white with the grip she had on the mug and her heart was thumping as though she’d already had four cups of coffee. Consciously she released her grip on the mug and forced her fingers to stretch, shaking her hands slightly to loosen them. She straightened her neck, opened her jaw and wiggled it while stretching the taut muscles across her shoulders. She glanced sheepishly around the room searching for prying eyes, inquiring faces, afraid of having had an audience while she had been momentarily lost to this world.
All other patrons were lost in their own little worlds, hushed whispers, murmurs and occasional laughter, no one had taken notice of her journey. She felt the sting of tears and quickly looked down to fiddle with her purse, her fingers slipping between the soft leather opening and feeling for the familiar plastic package which held her “never leave home without” tissues. She forced a deep breath, extending her belly with the flow of her breath inward.
She noted the slight sensation of shakiness in her tummy, a slight roiling of energy in the pit of her gut, that precursor to the all too familiar growth of an all out anxiety response. She coughed aloud, hoping no one noticed her reaching up to dab at her eyes and absorb the out-of-place tears. She coughed again, hoping that pretending she was choking slightly would normalize the water emanating from her eyes to anyone who may take notice. She took another deep breath and stretched again.
She looked to her coffee mug, she noted its color; stark white against the shiny dark wood grain of the table beneath. She consciously wrapped her hands around it, feeling the heat in her palms, warm and comforting, noting the smoothness of the ceramic beneath her fingers. She lowered her head and felt the steam caress her face, tickle her nose and dance softly across her closed eyelids. She inhaled deeply again, but this time she noted the nutty scent as it flowed up into her nostrils and left a sweet taste in her mouth. She opened her eyes and wondered at the tiny remnants of creamy white color spiraling through the caramel colored liquid that remained despite having been stirred. She lifted the mug to her lips, the heat soaked in and enveloped her face as the liquid rushed toward her tongue. Her mouth was quickly saturated with a sweet warm hazelnut flavor and she closed her eyes to focus completely on the sensation.
At a nearby table, six men sat discussing profit margins and business goals, a loud and raucous bunch, the simultaneous discussions ranged from last nights basketball game to expectations for the third quarter. A child whined at another table as the parents tried to introduce him to the novel concept of having eggs for breakfast, his squeals of protest rivaled the din of the early morning crowd. All around was the hum of people existing in a world motivated by connections, social, virtual; speech driven connections, sharing and living together.
She sat alone in her booth. Lost to the world around her but at the same time, more connected to that room than any other patron. She was fully here, she was no longer on a synapse induced journey into her past, she was here, she was now and her fears evaporated as the steam rising above her.