I settle in to a small table on the patio of a cafe, look over the menu, and order an omelette and coffee. Joggers periodically jog past, stopping at the edge of the patio with their backs to me as they wait to cross the intersection. There’s only a handful of people at this early hour. They’re scattered about the empty tables and umbrellas and towering silvery space heaters that look like props from an old episode of Star Trek.
Across the way there’s a man in a grey business suit leaning forward as if to launch his ideas at his companion, a younger man in a black polo with a stitched-on company logo. The young man sits back in his chair, arms in his lap. The be-suited man gestures and talks and then rests his forefingers on his lips, as if waiting on an answer to sift through his experience and knowledge. He wears his suit like a symbol of rank, a officer instructing a young enlisted man in some matters of duty.
The officer begins to check his phone. The enlisted man sits, still leaning back in his chair. The the officer must organize his day full of responsibilities. The enlisted man’s duties are organized for him.
I check my own phone from neither responsibility nor duty but from bad habit. More coffee is offered. More coffee is poured. Tables are pushed together for a party of twenty two. The number is repeated among the wait staff like a piece of gossip. I calculate 20 percent of fifteen and sign my name.
Three older men are the first of the twenty two to arrive. A waiter tells the next table they’re retired Marines. They look to be the right age to have been in Vietnam or maybe Korea. I want to stay and eavesdrop on their stories, but the day is getting on and I should give up my table to another customer.
I drink the last of the coffee and meander out into the street among the joggers.