“Public intimacy”

I spend most Friday mornings at Starbucks or Panera. Drinking a latte (or a mocha, depends on the day). Eating a cinnamon bagel (or chocolate chip muffie, depends on my mood). Grading papers, or planning for next week’s classes, or catching up on emails and Facebook messages, or just procrastinating. It’s a lovely break from the everyday, and I enjoy having a few hours to myself.

Over the last few months, I’ve observed a lot. Groups of old ladies who meet to knit together (not so much talk, as just sit together and knit – really, this is a thing?). Pastors meeting members of their congregation to discuss various spiritual issues. Business people frantically working on PowerPoints or prepping for an important meeting. Friends meeting to celebrate a birthday or new baby or some other happy occasion. The single person reading a magazine or a book.

But there’s something that captures my attention every time. I’ll spend way too much time watching them, studying them, envying them.

It’s the older couple. Sitting across the table from one another. Reading the paper, sharing the sections. Drinking their coffees. Occasionally reaching across the table to hold hands for a fleeting moment. Sometimes reading excerpts from an article to one another. Talking about their day, their plans. Telling stories. Laughing. Maybe reaching across the table to brush fingertips – again, while looking into each other’s eyes.

I watch couples like this from afar, envious of this sort of “public intimacy.” It’s like the world – this coffee shop, all the customers, the noise – doesn’t exist. It’s just him and her. Enjoying each other. Together and separate, but very, very close. Physically, emotionally, mentally close.

I never had this. I want this.

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