At the coffee shop

She came through the door slightly ahead of him. He followed close behind, walking quickly and watching the back of her head. It wasn’t clear she knew he was there; he may have been with her, or maybe he’d recognized her walking into the coffee shop and was trying to catch up, to let her know he’d seen her.

There was a line at the counter, and he stood close but didn’t say anything. She didn’t turn her head. She looked like she was reading the menu board. He scanned the room, up and down, taking stock.

He had a slight smile, as though this was a pause for thought in an ongoing conversation. Or maybe he was just self-conscious, slightly awkward. She ordered, and he put his hand between her sleeve and her coat, as you might to comfort someone, or if you were about to guide a blind person. Actually, it looked like an almost absent-minded gesture. It wasn’t clear he was expecting any response but she closed the gap as she searched her bag for a credit card, and he withdrew his hand without looking at her.

She swiped her card and walked briskly to the end of the counter, where the orders arrive. He stepped back out of the queue, bumped into a table, turned and ran a finger across the surface. Now she stood at the counter and watched him for just a moment as he walked to the newspaper stand by the door. He bent down and studied the front page. He glanced back toward her. By now she had one hand in her coat pocket, while the other held a phone that she was staring at, alternatively stabbing and swiping it with her thumb.

Two drinks arrived. He strode purposefully back across the room; she picked up one of them and left the other on the counter. She was putting her phone back into her bag as they passed each other. He was focused on the other drink. He picked it up, thanked the staff, and followed her toward the door.