There’s an arc of cola in the air, a shiny brown ribbon trailed by a constellation of ice. It casts a wide shadow on the tiles below. My keyboard is right in the spill’s trajectory. I follow the floating brown bubbles to their twelve ounce origin. It’s pinched in the grip of a poor young runt. He’s a pasty faced kid with freckles on top of his acne. It looks like he’s lost his balance. Upon closer inspection, it looks like his balance has been taken from him. Taken by the fluorescent orange sneaker sweeping his ankle. I could step in, untie that gaudy orange knot at his feet, but it’s not going to put his drink back into his cup. I could move my laptop out of the splatter zone, but it doesn’t matter. Not yet it doesn’t.
The food court is packed, but the lines move just as fast as they would in any amusement park, which is to say they don’t move at all. The manager of the sub shop holds a plastic wrapped container that will never arrive at it’s destination. A tube of sweet onion sauce spills over the counter beside him. The drip hangs like frozen tree sap.
The sunroof has gone grey with retail sunshine. The droplets look like dents in the glass. They don’t accumulate. They don’t run. The percussive pitter patter of the rain exists only in my head, a sound triggered by the sight of it.
The music video on the monitors over head is on pause. The blond singer is frozen in the moment before she climbs her desk to free her classmates from the tyranny of their prudish teacher. Her auto-tuned vocals have gone silent. Her arpeggiating synthesizers have lost their tune. Her four on the floor kick drums have all dropped out.
The patrons speak with their eyes and nothing more, and their eyes aren’t exactly having conversations.
It’s time to stand up and stretch, twist the kinks out of my back, and crack my neck. It feels like I’ve been sitting there forever. Maybe I have, in a manner of speaking. The time has come to take my ideas for a walk. I duck, careful not to get a face full of cola. Pacing around the table, I talk to myself with no mind for the judgment of eavesdroppers. Somebody’s got to give me feedback after all.
That big brown arc proves too distracting. I decide to position the little runt so the rest of his drink lands on the bully that made him spill it.
That’s when I see the crew of onlookers, slapping each others’ backs, their mocking laughter frozen in time. They’re egging the bully on. I borrow a few drinks from some nearby trays. Flipping them over, I sit them atop each of the onlookers’ heads. Why should these jokers be cut out of all the fun?
Then I sit back down on the short wooden chair that does my posture no favors. There’s nothing but words on the screen. No wipeout videos. No kittens. No thumbnail profile pics. Just words. There’s a stopper on the Internet. It isn’t down. It just isn’t going anywhere. My lunch break ends in five minutes. Five minutes from when time starts moving again.
I set both hands flat on the counter and let out a long sigh. Figure it’s time to bite my nails again. Then it’s time for typing. This novel isn’t going to write itself. If I’m lucky, I’ll hit one-hundred thousand words before my fingers start to hurt.