I’m sitting in a Starbucks. I just had coffee with a friend who had to run at noon to grab her daughter from preschool. I decided to sit for a spell and write on my laptop, order another drink, people watch. And the Starbuck’s Goddess has smiled upon me. There are three woman, all 60 plus, sitting in the corner next to me. They are huddled around two things: A book titled Still Life by Louise Penny, and a white folder with a homemade title on the side that says simply, Women’s Retreat. They are simultaneously talking about the book, and planning what sounds to be a church-related women’s retreat for April. They are also mercilessly making fun of some of the women going on the retreat with them, and occasionally poking fun at the woman sitting in an overstuffed chair, asleep, with a rolling suitcase at her feet. It’s disgusting. It’s not Jesus like. I can’t stop listening.
The book is a mystery novel. A 3.5 out of 5.0 on Goodreads. There’s a Chief Inspector named Gamache. One of the women is addicted to the mystery novel.
The sleeping woman with the suitcase is unmoving. I keep checking to see if her leg or arm moves. Checking to ensure she is alive. It’s cold in here. The temperature outside is a balmy 36 degrees. Winter in Atlanta has come.
One of the women refused a trip to Hawaii with her daughter and her family because they aren’t going to “the big island,” and because her son-in-law likes to decide last minute to stay extra days, and she can’t do that because her neighbor would have her dog, and what would happen if they stayed an extra day because the kids were having fun and her dog ran out of his medication, and the neighbor lost her code to her garage.
“What a disaster that would be,” says Still Life woman.
There’s a woman, Deborah, who is texting Women’s Retreat folder woman. Deborah wants to know if there is a way to join the retreat. “Is there a way?” the Women’s Retreat folder woman laughs, “Oh, I worry about Deborah sometimes.”
“She’s not techy,” Still Life woman says, “She needs help.”
“Just put her down,” Third woman says.
“No,” Women’s Retreat says, “I’ll send her the link again and she can have someone help her figure it out.”
“Maybe she won’t come,” Still Life says.
“Hopefully she won’t,” mumbles one of the Christian women.
The drive-thru line crawls along. Men and women in heavy coats, beanies, earmuffs, looking like they are about to climb Mt. Everest. Jesus, it’s only 36 degrees.
“We don’t need more testimony,” Still Life says, thumbing through a stack of papers Women’s Retreat took out of the folder.
“Her testimony doesn’t even reflect others, no one will get her,” Third woman slides a paper that looks like a schedule back toward the folder and eyes the sleeping woman.
Sleeping woman wakes with a start. Pulls a red envelope from her coat pocket, quickly, as if to make sure it is still there. She examines it and sticks it in the tote bag next to her, pulls a cracker from the meat and cheese tray she bought with a gift card when she first came in, pops it in her mouth, then lays her head forward on her breasts, her long greying hard falls down over her face. She closes her eyes and munches on the cracker.
“Do you think she lives in the hotel over there?” Women’s Retreat asks, nodding her head toward the awake sleeping woman, in the maroon sweatpants, matching coat, and slippers. Her large suitcase still at her feet.
“I can’t believe Starbucks just let’s her sit here,” Still Life shakes her head.
Willie Nelson plays, “…now my hair has turned to silver/all my life I’ve loved in vain/I can see her star in heaven/blue eyes crying in the rain.”