We ran through the pouring rain late Saturday afternoon – water splashing my calves when I stepped in the puddle I hadn’t seen – darted under the cover of the awning and shook rain off coat hoods and umbrellas before stepping inside Buzz in Alexandria, Va.
And though it was late in the day and the weather perfect for staying home, the coffee shop was crowded.
We pushed past the knot of seniors gathered around a wine-tasting table – sipping from plastic cups and taking tiny nibbles from cheese and crackers balanced on napkins – and found an empty corner to sit.
We had a long drive ahead of us still and worried that rain would turn to snow as we rose into the ridges but after a busy weekend we wanted the few minutes to sit and try to fit months of catching up into an hour.
And there’s something about coffee shops that make me itch to write. And though time was short and friends dear, the stories in the air cried out for my attention.
The small boy at the table next to us sat proud on the narrow couch like us, glancing our way to see if we were noticing him, fiercely independent of the parents who sat six inches away, but at the table. Bright eyes flickered around the room, tiny legs couldn’t be still, and quickly they left.
Several of the wine tasters made their careful way around the room, studying the artwork framed on the walls. Two women, white curls protected from the rain with silk scarves that probably cost more than my entire outfit, stood directly in front of us to look at the pieces above our heads, and we tried to pretend they weren’t there. An older man stood on the couch across from us, after gently laying his Ritz cracker and brie cheese on the table, to study one picture with the magnifying glass on his iPhone.
The girl reading on that couch ignored him.
Then they all wandered away, and a blond girl sat on her blond father’s knee on that coach, burying her small face in the green frosting of her cupcake. She looked up, briefly, with icing in her nose.
And we left, taking advantage of a break in the rain to hurry back to parked cars. But the rain poured and lay heavy on the beltway, turned to some cruel mix of rain and snow before we left Maryland.
As miles rolled by beneath us the lanes dropped, from six to three to just two. Fields opened on either side of us, cars traveling north with us became fewer, and the rain turned more predominately snow.
I didn’t see a headlight for several minutes on Route 22 in Pennsylvania; just swirling white flakes caught in our own headlights and laying thick along the road.
And the stories I drank in with the dark coffee hours before lingered, slipping into confused dreams with the snow, and the dark, and swish of windshield wipers and occasional comments about the disappearing lanes coming from the driver’s seat.