Zoey's Cafe

Saturday, October 22, 2011

He won't recognize me, but I said hello to him last week. He was looking down at Zoey's Cafe from the 9th floor of the Lithia Springs, and I took his photo in the reflection on the glass. Barely visible overlayed onto Grizzly Peak, you can see his oblivious eyes gazing intrepidly down at the street, determined to believe there was something to see. Those same eyes overlook me in the booth behind him, although sometimes I think he is aware of the possibility that I'm watching him. When he walked in his was visibly agitated that I was occupying the corner booth where he could have the entire room in front of him and nobody behind him. I can see him sweat when he turns his head from side to side, watching the employees and typing in short fits. My eyes follow his eyes. This he does not suspect because he preemptively dismisses his paranoia of being watched as paranoia.

When he came in I watched him stand in mock patience at the counter, waiting for the group of ten to get through their gabbing and ordering of ice cream. They were oblivious in the way that neither of us could be: so caught up in their world of ten that they could not be fucked to care what the rest of us thought. It is as far as I can tell suicidal to be self-conscious in public with a child, much less four. Or homicidal--there is no shortage of parents who take out their embarrassment on their children who, god bless them, care about as much as a dog does that it smells of feces. Eventually the teenager behind the counter gave in to his feigned serenity of eyes staring past the ice cream case, and asked him "are you not with this group?"

Despite the fact that he tries to politely ignore the large group, he positively stares at his physical analogue. Perhaps he thinks he's looking at a possibility of what he might be doing when he's in his thirties as the guy he stares at is.

I'm not entirely sure what the familial ties are in the group of ten, but there appear to be some. The guy he stares at, for instance, has a very similar face to the oldest man in the group, who keeps adjusting his baseball cap and his lips every ten seconds. There are definitely two heterosexual couples, both of whom have children, all boys. Two of the boys, presumably brothers, have been dressed in matching striped green t-shirts. One of the young women in the group seems to be managing all of the children except for a baby that sleeps on one man's back. But only two of the children leave with her when she leaves. They all go their separate directions. One woman goes across the street before all the others, in what appears to be a dejected manner.

He keeps looking up from what he's writing, scratching his head, and glancing from person to person. Now he stretches, looks at the ceiling, and sighs. He seems a little frustrated, and I'm imagining that he can't get whatever he's writing about everyone he's watching to cohere. Maybe he could blame the setting. It's shockingly, maybe comfortingly uninteresting in here. It doesn't lead to anything except outside. I can see why he came here--it is a perfect place to watch people. Half of the circumference of the building is made of glass. On two sides he can look out on the street. Well, the streets--the main drag, Siskiyou, is in front, and to the side is First Street. I notice that he often stares absent-mindedly at the people walking by outside, gets lost. I do too, following his gaze. Watching them is even more enticing because from in here it seems that nobody will look back at him; nobody will see him looking at them. He can't hear them outside the windows, so it feels more that they are a show than people whose capacity to return his gaze would turn them off-puttingly real. It's not just that it has lots of windows. It's also that the interior is so open. Nothing obscures his gaze between where he's sitting and the windows. There are no partitions or curtains. The largest thing is a single succulent plant right next to the window. Otherwise it's one open floor, with booths uniformly set along one wall, tables neatly distributed in the middle, and armchairs near the door. Zoey's cafe is a place to engage in comfortable voyeurism.

At least of the people out the window. He does observe the employees, but much more furtively. He steals glances at them and then, flinching, seems to catch himself staring unabashedly. He turns his head and pretends he's not listening to every word of the banter between them. I listen in. It's a little flirtatious, having the place to themselves as they do. The girl asks the guy to stop being so gross, and this of course just eggs him on. He grins and keeps talking about whatever it is. "No, really," she says, "anything else." They chase each other around with objects with which to strike. They talk about horror movies--he pontificating, she asking questions. Apparently demonic things get to him, ghosts get to her. They laugh and work side be side. They seem to be in some disagreement about "The Thing". She thinks it's a terrible movie for a date. Did they see it on a date together, or do they merely work together? As his fascination becomes my own, I wonder if it might make an opening scene to a movie--watching them banter and flirt, not knowing what their relationship is. That would become, the film maker would hope, the interest of the audience in the scene. What's interesting as a voyeur is interesting on film. Of course, now our listening is becoming even more conspicuous to them because us two are the only customers in here. It's just us four.