Practiced in front of the mirror….

Carefully. Blinkingly, she answers a question with her whole being, Oh God, she gushes, I absolutely adore that designer! Yeah, I know, I don't come across as funky, but I must say, I am very well rounded… Her beau gazes at her. He doesn't need to try to believe what she says; her lies are just as much a part of her as anything true about her. What's true? She stares at her interviewer with a practiced smile, silently begging that it will be over soon, yet wishing it would never end. Her older brother who is now Goth with thirty three tattoos taught her not to lie when they were much too young for masks, and she's hated doing it ever since. She feels wrong and yet so right telling her interviewer, who is naturally prettier than she could ever dream of being, about summers in the hamptons that may or may not have happened, she's told so many people now about these summers that she can't quite recall where the truth ends and the lies begin, Maybe she had a friend who knew someone who went there. Was she a pretty child? She can't remember. She just told the pretty blonde that she'd been a teen model though. Thank you so much, she gushes, I'm just so completely thrilled we could do this. But I'm late… She dashes out the café door, beau in tow. The blonde stares at the door and glances down at her notes. Sometimes she thought she'd like to be interviewed.

Two tables over, an old man watches the blonde. He mutters to himself about them damned stuck up dames, and glares at where the other woman and that man had been sitting across from the blonde. His tired hands, spotted with too many years in this world, move a chess piece shakily across the board. His son watches him sadly. He is a young man now and picks lint off his bottle green sweater, the same way his mind picks unhappy memories from the front of his mind, flicking them away for someone else to be bothered with. His mother and father divorced long ago and since then nothing had been happy. He loves both of his parents, but his father is an angry old man that is not long for this world, and his mother is blank and clear like a lake as she examines things like the bright blue sky from the dementia ward where she stays. The young man moves his own pawn, letting his father have a good move. He sighs and looks over at the sound of a little girl laughing.

She has curly bright red hair and pretty green eyes but her beauty is that of a child, she is pudgy and red faced and soon will be an unattractive preteen, her appearance steadily declining with each passing birthday. This is obvious because of the woman across from her, a large woman with pasty skin and an eagles sweatshirt and damaged red hair with blonde streaks only making it halfway to her scalp; it has been a long time since she has had the money to go to a salon. She watches her pretty daughter, giggling at the new Barbie she clutches. The doll's shoes are already lost and the hair is coming out of its hairdo. The little girl smashes the doll against the creaky wooden table, and her mother takes another swig of coffee. It tastes too fancy for her, and she grimaces as if she were drinking whiskey. She is meeting her brother here, who is accustomed to this sort of café. She, personally, doesn't see what's so wrong with Burger King. Her brother sails in, his gray hair a little too combed and primped. His clothing is expensive underneath his lab coat and she sighs, embarrassed at first by her shabby appearance, then defensive. What's wrong with a sweatshirt and leggings? She leans back, deciding that she looks perfectly fine in her own clothes, and that her brother is a snobby prick. She rolls her eyes at him as he orders a foreign sounding drink, pulling out a fancy leather wallet.

He orders his drink, his tired legs nearly buckling underneath him. The young girl he orders from has thick box frames and shaggy vomit-green hair. She is skinny and braless, her large breasts stretching out her low cut black shirt and hanging over the top of her red apron. She takes his order, pushing her hair out of her eyes and heading over to the espresso machine. It has been a week since her first day here, and three times she's seen this man. He is handsome, especially for a middle-aged guy, but she has a boyfriend already that adores her as much as she hates him at this point. He is the guitarist for a shitty screamo band and she's so tired of him that she doesn't even pick up the phone sometimes when he calls. She glances at this man out of the corner of her eye shyly. He is tapping his long fingers against the old fashioned wooden counter, examining the pastries behind the glass that desperately needs cleaning. She sighs and pours his drink into a blue mug and hands it to him with his receipt. Their hands brush and she can smell his expensive cologne. She looks away and he does too, and marches off to the corner of the café where an ugly obese woman and her fat little kid sit, making too much noise and bothering the other customers.

Two tables away from them, a strangely beautiful young man with dark hair that covers most of his face and a black pea coat sits, half-reading, half-watching the green haired girl. He knew her in high school and has been in love with her ever since but she hasn't recognized him yet, though he's been coming here every day since she started working here. He puts his book down and settles his attention completely on her, gazing at her back where her shoulder blades poke out sharply from her black shirt that dips lower in the back than in the front. It reaches down to her waist, showing off her ribby back and the one tiny freckle right in between her shoulder blades. He's known it was there since freshman year in PE when she wore a black bikini, it being the only spot on her pale, skinny body. He feels like a creep when he thinks about the fact that he knows this, and looks back down at his own skinny wrists poking out of his jacket. If they got married, they'd have dark-haired and dark-eyed pale, artistic skinny children and lay in bed every morning, writing poetry on each other's bodies as Miles Davis played. It would be perfect.

Next table over, a girl with long smooth legs and coffee-colored hair steals glances at the young man in the green sweater, playing chess with his father. He has fluffy looking blonde hair and rosy cheeks and childish china blue eyes, with five o'clock shadow. He looks miserable though, staring at his father who is ranting angrily at the moment. She smiles despite the sad scene; she knows this man from her work. She works at the hospital in the dementia ward, and he visits his mother every night after work. She's admired him for a long time, but feels too scared to say anything. She's beautiful and could have anyone she wanted, yet she can't bring herself to talk to him. Every time she sees him, he is dealing with his parents. It's just not a good time to ask someone out. She crosses and uncrosses her legs, unaware of the fact that the middle-aged man sitting with his sister and niece is staring at them. She runs her high heel along the wooden paneled floor, the dim light reflecting off her stockings. She notices a run in them along her calf and draws her legs back in under the table, and looks again at him. He is pulling on a ratty old brown coat and helping his father into his own jacket. Those blue eyes remind her of the song by the Who, and she watches him slowly help his father along to the door of the café. A tall nurse is waiting by the door, and she accepts his father, taking him to the car where she will drive him home and take care of him. The son watches his father go, standing in the doorway of the café. His stance shows he is both physically and mentally exhausted. She stands, hesitant at first, and then determined. She walks quickly over to him with purpose in the click of her heels against the floor.

The green haired girl sighs yet again and moves over to read the names of the teas. She is sure that she's not pronouncing them right but they sound beautiful in her head and she reads them over and over again, treasuring each syllable. She wishes her boyfriend would appreciate poetry more; he thinks it is a waste of time. But there are few things more exquisite in this dark, sad world than words. She says one of the names out loud, quietly, and startles a young man sitting at a table in the corner, behind the counter and next to the tea display. Oh, sorry, she blushes. He looks up and stares at her, his mouth hanging slightly open. She recognizes faintly the skinny elbows and knees poking awkwardly out of torn, ratty clothing and the messy brown hair. She adjusts her glasses. Is that you? From my French Literature class, right? Senior year? She is amazed that he is here. She'd always liked him but thought he was too high above her to even bother talking to. His writing was incredible and she still had one of his poems that had been published in the school paper. She kept it taped to her mirror and at night she'd recite it out loud in her bed, alone in her tiny apartment, letting the words roll off her tongue perfectly. He nods, his cheeks pink. She sits down; there is not much else happening in the café anyway.

Gathering up her notes from the interview, the pretty girl shrugs into her pricey black jacket and matching purse. She is about to put on her sunglasses, but realizes it is too dark now anyway. She leaves, smiling pleasantly at everyone she sees. Friendliness has always been something she owned and exuded in waves. She waves at the adorable little girl with springy red hair and the two adults seated by her. The man smiles back and the woman half waves. She leaves the café, going home to her lonely apartment.