packed cafe. she had to step around tables piled hight with used plates to arrive at the couch where her two friends sat as far apart from one another as possible. kicking off her shoes, she squeezed between them. she was late and they didn’t know one another. after a three-second introduction they seemed confident enough to put down the books they were holding, thumbs still wedged in between pages to mark their places. something about the gesture suggested rivalry, as if they had met before and didn’t tell her. the lights dimmed suddely for no apparent reason, and the girl clapped her hands, pleased to know that the soft shadows would settle deeper among her curves.
according to the sign taped on the cash register, it was the last night the cafe would be open. twelve years in the neighborhood. couldn’t make the rent, even though they started selling wine by the glass. a woman came through carrying a tray of pigs-in-blankets, smiling as she offered one to every customer. when the snacks were finished she broke into an even wider smile, and got up on a stool (miraculously unoccupied). she thanked everyone for their business, all those years, and reiterated her heartfelt sadness. she paused and looked above all our head, at the wall opposite. in a low voice, she announced that the doors had been locked. no one would be leaving. then she stepped down, carried the empty tray back behind the counter.
silence. nervous laughter. then a shout from one corner. everyone’s eyes searching the faces of their companions, then the strangers beside them. but they weren’t really strangers any longer. couldn’t be.