Girl

8:30am.

I’m at a plastified table at a roadside café.

Gwen Stefani trills “Just a Girl” in my head, and I tap my feet with the drumbeat.

This place is an 80’s dream. Rows of glasses behind the bar, backlit in flourescent. Recessed lights overhead illuminate the curved bar, which is paneled. It looks hollow, as if the panels were made from balsa wood, ready for a Hollywood stuntman to crash into.

All customers, me included, have found seats in various alcoves along the perimeter of the wall. We’re burrowed in, and nobody makes eye contact.

Scratch-ticket enthusiasts scratch.
Lotto gamblers hand over betting slips.
Construction workers puff generously-rolled cigarettes and drink espresso from tiny cups.
Neighborhood regulars with gravelly chuckles sit muttering to themselves.
I listen, write, sip coffee.

My coffee tastes weird, watery and tinny, giving me the impression the water and grounds have been re-used.

A subdued, anonymous air hangs still in the café. Outside, traffic moans and chugs by. A huge truck bed is full of spiralled hay bales, like great unrisen cinnamon buns.

A parking lot buzzes with morning vitality. A man, half-asleep and wearing two days’ worth of five-o’clock shadow reaches into his car, thereby exposing the forbidden recess of his upper buttcrack, and his flaccid paunch hangs forward.

All the while, I’m humming to myself.

I’m just a girl in the world…

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