I was eating breakfast alone, at the counter, at the Route 101 Coffee Shop on Franklin, where they filmed a scene from Swingers. A woman took the stool beside me. She had on a round brimmed felt cap which she didn’t remove, and she wore dark eyeliner and heavy rings on her fingers. We exchanged a few pleasantries, and then, I went back to reading. She opened a book of essays from Milan Kundera. The waitress took her order and I decided that, when her food came, I’d resume conversation with her. I guess maybe I was nervous that if I talked now, we’d run out of things to say.
She ordered a breakfast burrito, and a few minutes later, the waitress delivered it, squat and piled with salsa. I finished my paragraph and spoke, but then, I saw that my neighbor’s eyes were closed and hands were clasped.
“I’m sorry,” I said. “You’re praying.”
She opened her eyes and smiled a closed-lipped smile, and then shut her eyes and went back to it.
“I’m not praying,” she said, when she was done. “It’s just gratitude. I cultivate an attitude of gratitude. I used to race around so much that I didn’t even like eating. I regarded it as an inconvenience.”
We exchanged what now had grown beyond pleasantries. She asked what I was doing that day. I said there was a girl I was hoping would hang out with me later, and I drew up the screen on my iPhone. “No word yet,” I said. I asked what she was doing.
“I’m rehearsing,” she said, “to be this year’s Element of Faith at the Fuente Eterno.”
Tom Dibblee is Trop’s editor. His fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train and his nonfiction has appeared in Pacific Standard, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and the Point. He lives in Los Angeles.