I am surrounded by beautiful people. Some men, some women, some who seem to ride the wave between the two in terms of style and identity. They sport dreads and shaved heads; nose rings and ear gages; trendy clothes and stuff my grandma likely wore when it was new and fresh, if there’s really any such thing in the world of fashion.
I imagine that I stick out like the proverbial sore thumb, what with my suburban maxi skirt and laptop case, slung over my shoulder. Weighing me down. An Adam Levine lookalike with perfect hair and even more perfect tattooed arms seats me—fittingly enough—smack dab in the middle of the restaurant. I pull out my laptop and pretend to be busy, hoping that everyone is too lost in their own conversations to notice me sitting here, soaking it all in.
I watch one server with crazy dreads and a gorgeous, long, flowy skirt dance a glass of orange juice to a table. I assume the people sitting there must be friends, because they’re laughing and egging her on, and no one seems to care that as she grooves to a beat all her own, the bright orange liquid is splishing and splashing over the rim of the glass, plopping to the concrete floor in swift rivers that splat then puddle, creating a makeshift monotone tie-dye design on the floor. Her moves are deliberate and anywhere else, I might think calculated. But the glow that emanates from her screams happiness and joy, and the staccato sounds of muted conversation add to the overhead indie music in a way that makes me feel as if I’ve stumbled right into a soundtrack recording for a critically acclaimed but low box office limited release film.
I let myself melt into the middle, with only my waitress noticing me. She flits in and out, smiles as big as the state I’ve just landed in and is wearing feather earrings that I imagine were plucked right out of a headdress that Cher wore once upon a time.
I move outside, self-conscious not that anyone cares I’m there but that they need the table. The air is thicker than it was at home this morning, and the sun more intense. I claim a spot at the end of a bench, right where employees duck out the back door to take phone calls and chat while on break. They don’t seem to care that I’m eavesdropping, and I think how hospitable they all are, letting me steal into a tiny part of their lives, if only for a second.
My waitress walks out to go home, but she stops when she sees me, asking if I’m ok. She offers me a ride back to wherever it is I’m waiting to go. When I tell her that I have one on the way, she smiles so brightly that I swear her eyes dance, right there in the middle of the afternoon, reminding me that there’s beauty everywhere, if we seek to see, rather than be seen.