It’s Friday afternoon and here I am curled up on my favourite couch, pushed up close to the red brick feature wall, it allows me a sweeping view of the rest of the dimly lit interior, it is the best seat in the house. Comfortable and discreet and perfect for me to enjoy my favourite past time, people watching. I’m enjoying the enticing aroma of freshly ground Arabica beans brewing, all the better to tempt the taste buds of of our patrons. I also see a fresh lemon drizzle cake has arrived on the counter, baked by the fair hand of Cassie. I’m sure there won’t be much of that left this evening!
I’m Henry and I run things around here at the “Black Cat Café ”. That’s Cassie over there, with the fluffy blonde hair and huge amber eyes, if she were a feline she’d be a playful Persian Kitten, but you do have to watch her, sometimes Kitty has claws! Cassie is a people person. Me? I’m far more reserved, cool, detached and maybe even a little introverted. As you have noticed I am an actual Cat, a rather lovely Burmese, with silky black fur and jade eyes that miss nothing. Maybe I am biased but just like our downtown coffee shop, I am rather unique and special.
Could be “The Black Cat Café” feels like home from home, a little haven nestled amongst all the bustling commerce, catering to that strange human need to hang out with other humans. It’s cosy and intimate with discreet seating, an eclectic mix of distressed brown leather sofas and sumptuous armchairs covered in velvet hues of deep purple and forest green. We have lots of plump Liberty print cushions scattered about for patrons to sink into and enjoy a leisurely break from the humdrum world outside. Low, mahogany tables with fresh Freesias in china vases and tiny tea lights in coloured glasses add to the sense of being in an intimate space. An ornate gilded mirror picks up all the twinkling fairy lights strewn around the walls. Cassie happily hosts local artists, displaying their vibrant work. The vibe is vintage, eclectic and super cosy. There are plenty of little nooks and crannies for those desiring a quite tete a tete, friends sharing intimacies, lovers sharing secrets. We cater for those wanting to see and be seen too. Sat outside at our cast iron Bistro sets, they are welcome to light up a cigarette, sip an espresso and watch the world go by European style. And all from our Waterfront pavement in our quaint little corner of Providence.
Interesting what you see in a coffee shop, all the little vignettes of peoples lives, how they interconnect and entwine. I like to people watch, maybe because I’m such an introvert, a window on the world without getting too close. Maybe I am just a discerning cat. It is just like front seat watching your favourite day time soap opera as life’s little dramas play out. I can tell a lot by just looking at a person, where they choose to sit, what they are drinking. Now, you for instance, are a cat person, I can tell you will enjoy just sitting here and soaking up the atmosphere, the scents and sounds. Cassie likes to play the blues on the stereo. I prefer the sultriness of Lana Del Rey and Beth Hart, she plays them too. Says they capture raw emotion, love stripped bare. Cassie gets things, that’s why she is my person. I don’t like to share her.
Come and join me, I’ll be glad of your company and happy to chat for a while. Plenty of space on this old couch. Grab yourself a steaming mug of your favourite brew and people watch with me. Don’t be shy, I find that introverts like to join me, they don’t feel so obviously on their own with a cool cat for company.
“Why thank you Henry, don’t mind if I do. I think I’ll go for a Macchiato and a slice of that lemon drizzle cake. Let me introduce myself, I’m Tyler, I’m a writer, people watcher too. Like to observe the depth psychology of interpersonal relationships. See him over there in sports clothes, with the well dressed woman, what can you tell me about them?”
Ohhh…Those two…They meet in here every Friday, same time, same seats, same drinks. An English Breakfast tea for her and a Skinny decaf Latte for him. I admit I like them. Good. Decent. Married. The last six months I’ve watched it all happen and watched it all unravel.Observed the other players in their little world, too. They haven’t noticed me, noticing them.I can tell you it all, what went wrong, ripped them apart. Shame really. I would have liked to have said something to them, let them know they could make it better, but it would not have worked. They wouldn’t have heard me.I’ve had eyes and ears on them. I think this is a ‘make or break’ coffee date…I know Cassie thinks so too. The whole thing has put her on edge. Oh, my steamed milk has cooled down, just a few sips and I shall share my observations, my dear Tyler!
“I’m intrigued, Henry, do tell!”
He’s called Chase, he’s from the Mid West. Tough guy. Made it out of the ghetto and sidestepped the gangs into law enforcement, rapidly rose to Captain in one of Chicago’s toughest precincts. Had the heart of a lion, fearless on the mean streets, got burnt out, saw way too much too soon. She’s a New Yorker, Manhattan, a real UpTown girl. I’ve intuited all this from the stories they tell each other and things Cassie has said. Life brought them here to Rhode Island. He may be in his late thirties now but still has a great deal of stamina and physical strength, keeps himself athletic, runs marathons. Cassie said it keeps his head clear, I disagree. Who or what is he running from?
“What about the woman, she is beautiful, but a lot older, ten years easily?”
Her name is Venetia, she’s all Fifth Avenue elegance. Look at those pearls, the Chanel suit and those Manolo heels. If you get close enough, you’ll get a waft of gorgeous heady Italian perfume, classy dame. He smells of fresh pine, a forest of green stuff. My Cassie smells of fresh baked muffins, I think I prefer the muffins myself.
“They look like a mismatched pair, Henry, don’t look like they would have any meaningful connection?”
Looks are deceiving my dear Tyler, do what cats do…Look at those eyes, so dark but shine so bright. I wonder if that was the draw for him? Those eyes are cats eyes, see things that others don’t. I can tell that she ‘sees’ him. Knows him well. He seems to like that. She has a fierce intellect. He likes that too. Admires her for her depth, not threatened by her mind like some men would be in the company of a Psychologist. Her Practice is a few blocks from here, she’s been in with a few of her clients. The Black Cat Café is discreet, comfortable, puts them at ease to open up to her. Cassie is okay with her doing some counselling sessions here. Now if she were a cat, she would be a sleek and elegant Russian Blue, him he’d be a Savannah. Chase still has a wild side. Cassie says she has yet to meet the woman could tame that one and if the ‘one’ ever arrives that will be the last we see of Chase around here.
“So Chase is a bit of a dark horse, a player then, Henry?”
Hard to tell. His eyes are fathomless. They may be blue. They may be grey. Depends on his mood. I have wondered if he, despite all his physical strength, is desperately trying to keep bad at bay. He isn’t easy to read. But I noticed that Venetia saw down into that deep dark well and into the hidden place where he keeps those old hungry and angry ghosts on lock down.
“Oh, that is rather deep, Henry. It takes a lot to bare one’s soul. Somethings we never admit to, even to ourselves. World stays safe that way.”
Yes, you are right. The unsaid ‘thing’ … He knew she knew... and he loved her for it but he just could not tell her. It was complicated. Humans, funny things. Felines are so much further along the evolutionary scale, cats say what we mean, mean what we say. Demand what is ours. Take it if necessary…
“What happened, Henry? Do you know?”
Of course I know, I’m a cat, I know everything and I was right there, under his feet! Saturday night he was sat on my couch knocking back Jack Daniels, Venetia was at a conference in New York and Chase was badly missing her, couldn’t sleep, he gets these nightmares. Cassie was upstairs visiting the land of dreams so I decided to keep an eye on things down here. He called her. Too much alcohol, both of them, and it all came tumbling out…unsaid words, finally said…And he got afraid. Of her. The truth. Possibilities. Life… And she was ashamed, she crossed a line, didn’t know how to go back… Pity really, They were so good for each other.
“But he is still with her, sat over there? They are both wearing wedding bands. Surely it didn’t end that night?”
No, it should have done. Been cleaner. Better for everyone, and no one would have got hurt. Instead he did the craziest thing and ‘let the Stranger in’, took up with Maggie. Caused a lot of complications around here. I don’t judge, but I didn’t like that. No, not one bit. Cassie was very upset by all the drama.
“Who is this other woman, Henry?”
She’s the innocent looking blue eyed blonde at the counter, watching them, whispering in Cassie’s ear yet again. …wish Cassie would unleash her claws on that one, but she’s standing there listening to her … And because Maggie is her sister, Cassie is believing all her lies…Hiss…I wish she would get the hell out of MY Café and back to her Five and Dime store!
“Oh Henry, what a surprising turn of events!”
I wasn’t surprised, saw it coming, he was meeting her in here, right at their table! She tries to emulate Venetia, her wit and her wisdom, but she just isn’t her. A perverse thing in him needed to regain control. Shut those ghosts up. Make his world safe again. So he chased and caught Maggie . Felt pleased with himself until he realised that the hunter became the hunted and Maggie was not for letting go or keeping things under wraps. But something deep inside whispered, then shouted. His soul cried for the woman he truly loved… But to be with her he would need to be true to himself, stripped bare. Accept what she could and could not give to him. Would he choose to do the inner work she was willing to help him do? Or would Chase cut loose?
“This Maggie must have have something. Some people cheat because they can, others cheat because there is something fundamentally missing in them and they are seeking integration through another person, trying to find a way to make themselves feel whole again. What do you think, Henry?”
Maggie is the first, Chase is the second. Venetia told Cassie in confidence that in her professional opinion Maggie has a Histrionic Personality Disorder. She needs a lot of attention, demanding more than Chase could, would or even should give her, didn’t see past herself and that he was hurting too… God, how was he hurting. As a psychologist Venetia knew both of them had issues and thought she could help them both through it… She just ended up getting burnt in the flames of her own desires.
“All very deep, Henry, do you think he will choose Maggie? Or Venetia ?”
Hmm…Neither…I am hoping he wakes up, smells the coffee and plumps for his long suffering, loyal and understanding wife!
“I thought you said they were already married, Henry?”
I did. They are…
…just not to each other…”it’s complicated”… I told you it was like a soap opera around here!
Chase is married …to Cassie…
“So Venetia is?…”
Venetia is Chase’s therapist and Maggie’s too and er, also her wife!
“So let me get this straight, Chase and Cassie, Chase and Venetia and Chase and Maggie?”