The art of listening.
You notice her because she seems lonely. Sitting in the room’s most solitary corner, she aimlessly flips through her phone while tugging on her hair. When your heart is raining on the inside, you tug on your hair, too. Another person enters the room. We’ll call her January. The girl looks up and smiles, hiding the downpour behind an artificial ray of sunshine.
But that doesn’t mean the storm has passed.
January sits next to the girl and begins chatting away. The girl sits and listens, rarely opening her mouth to interject a thought or idea. Every few minutes, January pulls out her phone to look at something. This often happens to be when the girl is talking. As the girl sits and listens, her sunshine disguise masks less and less of her true expression. January doesn’t seem to notice, and gets up to grab herself a tall nonfat caramel macchiato with extra espresso and sugar-free syrup. When it is finished, January leaves. The girl can’t hide the rain any longer. She sits in silence for a few minutes, shoulders slouched and heart logged with water. You want to say something, but you forgot your umbrella.
You notice her because she is apart. Sitting in the room’s most empty corner, she carelessly flips through a magazine, rarely stopping on a page to notice what it reads. She does this for an hour, eventually replacing the magazine with an outdated newspaper. Suddenly, the girl looks up and smiles. You follow her gaze across the room, where another girl has just entered. We’ll call this girl Summer. Summer walks towards the girl with a face of sunshine, plopping down on the couch next to her. Summer throws her arms around the girl. The girl smiles, doing her best to disguise the storm inside. Summer starts to ask the girl questions. At first, the girl is quiet, but Summer is patient and persistent. After 15 minutes of awkward silence, the girl starts to talk. Summer doesn’t nod or paraphrase or say “me too”. Summer just listens. Words leak from the girl's mouth in an ever-flowing stream, but Summer never diverts her attention. Eventually, the girl stops. She smiles a real smile - one that isn’t clouded by the possibility of rain, but rather with the promise of it.
Summer leaves her spot on the couch and returns with two steaming mugs of chai. Together, they sip the drinks and exchange stories and smiles and laughter. Summer leaves. You want to say something. Today, you remembered your sunglasses.
“Hey, would you want to get coffee sometime?”