There’s nothing worse than wanting to cry alone and being in a crowd of smiling people, the cashier thought to herself. She was tired. It had been a long day. Today she carried the burdens of extra thoughts. She enjoyed her job for the most part, though. Crowded places were amusing to sit in and just watch the people. The most enjoyable aspect of her job was observing the lives that sat in booths all around her.
The corner directly in front of her harbors two lovers. They are easily recognizable as lovers because they gaze intently into one another’s eyes. Their interlocked fingers rest on the table in front of them. They do not notice the world rushing past them as they sit frozen in their world of love and romance. She could not help but wonder how long it would last, for as her beloved mother had taught her all good things must end.
The ever-eager student lies hidden beneath clutters of paper in a large corner booth. He needs the bigger booth, he says, because he has to spread out all of his work. She tells him she doesn’t care as long as he buys something. So he orders a small cappuccino to make her happy. His tall towers of books keep out the world of ignorance and embrace his small world of knowledge. His eyes gaze longingly at the ideas in the books trying to in all of their contents. His eyes have red lines and dark circles of sleep deprivation, the symbols that signify a true student. In the center of his quest for knowledge sits his overused highlighter, waiting for a new idea needing to be remembered.
At the next table sits a large man all alone. His only companions are the litter from his plastic wrappers. Cheeseburgers, french fries, chocolate donuts, and a strawberry milk shake fill his vaults of emptiness. He does not seem to notice the stares from the passers-by. As do the others, he remains enveloped in the world that he has created. He does seem to care that the only thing filling the empty space on the bench is his excess weight. Perhaps he is grateful for anything at all to fill the space.
Three small children and an adolescent babysitter inhabit the next booth. The children have only just begun to dig into their kids’ meals and already their faces are smudged with ketchup, and mayonnaise, and mustard. One of the two boys--the younger of the two--helps the process as he first dips each finger into a bowl of ketchup and then wipes them on the arm of his older sister. She screams loudly and jerks away. Her face is indignant and she offers a few harsh words to her younger brother. The young babysitter stifles her giggles as she removes the ammunition from within the boy’s reach. The sister catches sight of the babysitter’s giggles, and is now smiling herself. The ketchup did feel kind of funny on her arm. Soon all of them are laughing though, and ketchup along with the mayonnaise and mustard is being used to decorate all of them.
The cashier had been watching them since the feud began, but now her duties obligate her to end their fun. The fat man sighs with relief as she walks over. They were beginning to annoy him, and he needs another milk shake. The young lovers smile broadly as dreams of their own future family dance in their eyes. And the studious student continues to plunge deeper into his reality, unaware of the life around him.
On the far side of the café a lone woman sits. A large Bible lies open on the table in front of her, and a cup of cold cocoa awaits her attention. She has been watching them all for almost half an hour. It was easy to lose track of time while people watching. She could see a little of herself in each of them. She has loved as the lovers and studied as the student. She has cried as does the fat man, and laughed like the children. But today she only watches and smiles.
She reaches for her cocoa and takes an instinctively cautious sip. She is caught off guard by its coolness but grateful it did not burn her tongue. She glances down at the words of the Psalm before her and smiles even deeper. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. Her smile fills her eyes and comes from somewhere within.
The cashier has managed to end the condiment war and has returned to her post at the register. She now glances across the café and notices the young woman. Her roaming eyes pause for a moment. She wonders why the woman is smiling to herself, a smile from somewhere deep within, a smile she has never known before. Maybe she will go over and offer to refill her cup of hot cocoa.