I would've stayed in this serene cafe forever.
But the paper readers were leaving one by one and being replaced by the usual customer base.
I really liked the way they left. It was an actual exit, and watching felt like being a voyeur to a scene in a film; a kind of film that I'd like. When the usual customer on their laptop or phone left, they stood up and exited in hurried motions. You could even argue that they weren't exiting at all, instead they were being exited or vanished... one moment here and the next glitched out of existence by some higher order. In contrast, the paper readers exhibited a spectacle: movements and expressions belonging to them. Each individual of course had their own quirks, but the overarching process to their exits followed a pattern.
An exit began before any packing happened. It began with a slowing down of the mind. Their hands stopped writing if they were writing. Their hands set the sheet of paper back flat against the table if they were reading. And then it was their back. They straightened it out and then leaned back. Most of them then stretched here while giving a sigh before taking a glance around. Glances last just a moment, but this was the sort of glance that turned into a gaze. This is where it felt most like watching a film. Watching them, gazing out... where they were gazing? It didn't matter. It was almost always out the window, but what I knew for sure was that the true gaze was turned inwards. They were looking at themselves. It was only after all this that they came to -- their gaze returning to the physical world -- and began packing their bags.
Yes. Without them the cafe was beginning to fill up with more and more people. The chatter was growing, the volume on the music growing even more, and the pace of the music growing the most. Yes. I would've stayed in that serene cafe forever, if that cafe were to stay serene forever. But now it was time to leave.
After checking that my coffee was no longer steaming, I placed a plastic lid on top of the cup, making sure to press down using two fingers at all points along the entire edge of the lip. And then I stood up slowly, glanced around the cafe. Then I walked out taking measured steps, feet pointing straight ahead. I felt the air change behind me. Someone must have taken my spot.
I never looked back.