Our times

“So, is Hannah ever coming back?” said Christophe.

“Hannah?  Who’s she?”

“I thought you knew her.”

So began a typical conversation at what I’m pleased to call my favorite coffee shop.

It’s small, maybe 20 feet wide and twice as deep, occupying a space on Main Street that in other times hosted perhaps a shoe shop, or a candy counter.  I go in most days, for the same thing: a breve and a peanut butter cookie, except when the cookies are sold out.

That’s fairly often, because they’re good, and also because they’re flourless, so all the legions of the gluten-free and guilt-ridden snap them up at the first opportunity.  When they’re gone, I fall back on Russian tea cookies, dependably gluten-rich, laced with sugar and probably un-vegan to boot, and therefor rarely sold out.  During the first weeks of the Crimean crisis, I took to calling them Ukrainian tea cookies, until the Ukrainian nationalists started to irritate me as well.  Someone suggested the more neutral Balto-Slavic tea cookies, so I went with that until I got disillusioned with the whole prospect and went back to the original name, feeling defeated.

Anyway, the shop, and the experience: because I go there regularly, they know me, in the same curious way I know them.  I know their personalities, and how they work, whether they’re cheerful or surly, and occasionally, their names.

But not Hannah.  Try as I might, I couldn’t place her, even after she was described to me.  Even after I was told she had worked there for two years, and even though Christophe was sure I knew her well enough to have information about her that he did not.  Even though all I know about Christophe is his name and how well he makes coffee, and all he knows about me is my usual order.

We live unaware, surrounded by mystery, amazed when it reveals itself.