We crowded around a table for two, the four of us folding legs under our chairs, keeping elbows close to our sides, plastic cups, condensation already forming, of iced coffee or tea in hand, game board spread out on the meager table space.
Outside, the heat index snapped old records; concrete shimmered in relentless sun; asphalt felt almost soft underfoot. Patio tables sat empty, as residents stayed home or took refuge inside Alexandria establishments.
We waited out the hottest part of the day in the cool, dark air conditioned air of St. Elmo’s Coffee Pub; and so, apparently, did many others. All the tables were filled except for two small tables against the wall, so we took the larger of the two and fit ourselves in the space around it.
Most of the others around the tables, books or notebooks or computers open in front of them, didn’t look up. One man offered an extra chair at his table when he saw me take one from another, then settled back into his work. We settled into our game, pulling dusty bits of trivia from dark corners of our memories, trying to remember names and dates and films and political gossip from the 1980s, when we were just children.
Each table was like an island, each occupant minding his own business, ignoring his neighbor. Coffee shop etiquette, really.
I don’t remember the question that pulled us all together for a moment. Some actress, I think, that we couldn’t name and finally gave up and checked the answer, rolled the dice again.
“Excuse me,” a man at the table over asked, the woman across of him craning her head around to look at us, too. “What was the answer to that question?”
We told him, a little embarrassed that we’d been playing so loudly. “Really?” He was surprised. “We thought it might have been the girl who played in such and such a film, what was her name?”
From the far corner, a long-haired, bearded student looked up, supplied the name, grinned, dropped back into his studies.
For the rest of the game I knew they were listening. When my husband said he was relieved he didn’t know what make-up brand was named after Shakespeare’s home town because that’s too much for any man to know about cosmetics, some one across the room laughed.
When we finally got up to leave, the man who had spoken first asked if I ever figured out the Jewish holiday that was the start of the new year? And a woman in another corner commented on the Avon cosmetic line question, and we laughed on our way out the door.
Strange, how we walked into a room filled with little islands, each so focused on his or her own projects, ignoring the humanity around them. And how, as we left, we were laughing and joking with people whose names we didn’t know, matching their bits of trivia against ours.
All because of a game of Trivial Pursuit, bought for $3 at our local Good-Will store.