There is a line of four people. The line is going the wrong way—perpendicular to the counter instead of parallel. Must be out-of-towners. I stand in purgatory—half perpendicular, half parallel, wholly displeased. They form a right angle with the serving surface. I form a wrong alliance with the probability of beverage commerce. A middle-aged woman sees my discomfort. “Doesn’t the line go this way?” she says, pointing along the dessert case. “Yes, it normally does,” I say. Ten adult feet move. Parallel now.
I order a decaf Americano. Then I grab a plastic-wrapped brownie from the display and announce my plan to eat it. The young woman takes my six dollars and gives me back a quarter and a dime. I feel cheap tossing thirty-five cents into her tip jar, so I pocket the coins. I’ve spoken to her several dozen times, but I don’t know her name. She knows more about my affinity for sweets than anyone in the world except me. But even if I come here every day for the next thirty years, and we grow old together, her serving and me eating, I’ll still know more. It’s like a limit in calculus. She’ll never get there.
I sit on a blue leather chair that’s catty-cornered without a corner. It’s cornered against an imaginary line. The line extends infinitely. It has no final resting place. It is ignorant of distance and dates. The feel of newspaper in my hands. Dad still reading on the couch with the brown dog at his feet. While I sit in a make-believe corner.