So there she was, sitting in the corner of the shop, tuning her guitar. I saw her almost every night, sometimes playing, sometimes behind the bar, smiling, singing, glaring, staring off into space—all of it. She’d gone through the range of human emotion in the time that I’d walked by this particular coffee shop. I can’t remember how many times I’d done it—weeks, months, maybe a year already. I came this way after my shift, without fail. There were a few times I took a different route at the beginning, but once I saw her, I kept on this one route. Going home this way was longer, a little bit. I had to take an extra elevator, and I had to walk a bit of a roundabout route to get there, but it was comforting to see her every evening.
And yes, I know that sounds creepy. I would walk by a coffee shop, look in the window, and see a beautiful girl whom I’d never spoken to going about her day. Yeah. I get that. I didn’t do anything creepy though. Just walked by, glanced in, went about the rest of my day. There were no fantasies, no carefully constructed unrealities that made her into a whole person, no elaborate meet cutes that would bring us together—none of that. Just me, walking, comforted by the fact that she was there. She probably never noticed me. She was always busy around that time of day—night?—evening?—early morning?—can’t really be sure, working on a space station and all. There’s clocks everywhere, and the lights get brighter and darker depending on what the numbers say, but people couldn’t tell. We were in a vast, gigantic, metal and ceramic box hurtling through space to who knows where, living our lives, doing our best to pretend like we were still on Earth.
The district towers reached up and down so far, that when the light was right—probably around “dawn” or “dusk”—their bases and tops disappeared. We spun, but we didn’t feel it most of the time. All of us had our own place, but some coupled up. Made it less lonely. Some liked living alone. Earth was crowded, and then you got on this thing and bam, you’re suddenly able to live by yourself, and not get in trouble for it. People loved that. It made monitoring for warning signs a bit more difficult, but the freedom of your own, real, actual, physical place tended to perk people up more than bring them down.
Anyway, I’m getting off base. I was talking about me. My walk home. From my job to my home. I would see her every night, but she wouldn’t see me. Looking back, I wish I had the courage to do what I did sooner.
So one night, I’m on my way home, and like always, I see her. There she is, being her radiant self. She was kinda tall, maybe six feet? Didn’t realize that before. I’m about five and a half, so you can see what I mean. Her hair was down. She wore it down when she wasn’t making coffee for people. It was auburn, I think. A kind of deep reddish brown, a color that changed in the light. Like a spectrum of red when the light hit it at the right angle. I wonder what it would look like if we had natural light…
Oh well. Can’t win em all.
Her skin was lovely. It was tan, dark. Ruby underneath, like when someone puts on makeup, it brings out that, uh, undertone! Undertone, that was it. The light would bring out the undertone. I like that word, don’ t you? Lovely face, too. Soft cheeks that bunched up in that cute way when she smiled. Eyes the color of…what was that damn color? Hazel. Grey when the light—ah, you get it.
Something about the light. Something about how she caught it. I got the feeling that it didn’t happen as much up here as it did when she was back on the planet. But my, she was beautiful. Just a vision.
But there I was, on my way home, and I see her. Nothing out of the ordinary. But something takes me. A little thought. I get moved by something, and not the guy trying to get by behind me. No, it was something like, I was moved by a spirit. Fate. That kinda thing. I decide that I’m gonna make a change. I grab the door, and I open it. I freeze for a sec, a small bit of a sec, so small no one notices but me, but my mind just races. I feel like I’m standing there for an hour, thinking about what could happen if I step inside. All of those damn what-if’s, every single possibility hitting me like a meteor shower. But I keep stepping, and like that, I’m in. I’m inside this little coffee shop I’ve seen for ages, and I’m there. I’m there.
Whoever made it did their best to make it look homey or something. Lot of yellow lights, not those harsh white ones in the work areas. Dark, finished wood. Comfy chairs, pillows, a few low tables near the stage. Bits of lights hanging from the ceiling—antique stuff, like Christmas lights. Most of them didn’t work, but it was a nice touch.