That man’s silence is wonderful to listen to.
I was behind in my work – the magazine needed some short fiction from me – so it was a good thing I was able to get in my usual Saturday morning two hours of writing at Starbucks.
The voyeurism of overheard conversations at that Starbucks on Saturday morning was fun, interesting, and sometimes a creativity starter. It seemed that there was a penchant for confession – people came to the coffee shop to own up to the sins they had committed on Friday night. Lately, the quality of the conversation overheard at nearby tables has been slack but today it was fairly good.
Behind me two guys were having a long one-sided discussion. When I first sat down one said in a clear voice, “I still love you, and I hope we can still be friends, but there are issues.” I thought this would be really juicy, but it turned out to be a discussion about friction within a local Baptist church.
I could not help it, I had to look. Twisting in my seat I pretended to gaze at the board that displayed the coffee selections but I was really glancing at the two guys talking – well, the one guy talking and the other taking the abuse. I noticed there was another coffee-drinker sitting close to them – she wasn’t pretending, she was staring.
While I wrote, I listened to this guy go on for over an hour. The other guy was leaving the church and the talker wanted him to stay, I guess. The talker was the kind of person I want to bitch-slap. He thought he was a good talker – but he was a terrible listener, which is very important for a church person. He never shut up; never let the other guy get a word in edgewise.
I was able to make out a list of all the people associated with the guy’s church and their failings, weaknesses, and shortcomings. He complained how nobody ever stuck to his or her course, nobody was “a stand-up guy,” and how people were leaving for the big Baptist churches in Rockwall and Garland. He kept saying how the “church world” is the same as “the business world,” and would expound at length on his ideas and theories for expansion and success. He kept using phrases like “fundamental commitment to leadership.” I thought about how he bloviated about a church for over an hour and never mentioned God, Christ, or Faith.
Then, suddenly, a loud screech of a weighted chair rudely scraped across a stained concrete Starbucks floor, a breeze of motion and a gap of very loud silence.
I whipped around to see what was going on. The woman that had been sitting near them had slid her chair back, jumped up, and advanced on the men. She was red as a beet. She began to yell.
“Hey! Dude! It’s you! It’s you! It’s you! They can’t stand you, you run the place, you tell everybody what to do; you don’t listen to what they need… what they want – what the hell do you expect!”
“Excuse me?” the guy creaked out.
“Excuse me? Excuse me! Excuse the fuck you! I’ve been listening to… No, no, I haven’t been listening, I’ve been sitting here trying to enjoy my coffee, the high point of my week, and your bile and self-serving crap has been pouring over me. You are ruining my day! People like you… Men like you are ruining my whole life!”
The man made some quiet clucking noises while the entire coffee shop broke out in applause. The woman stormed out while the two men sat in shoulder-hunched silence.
I clapped a bit myself – but I never said anything. I had a short story to write.