On Edward Hopper’s Automat

Automat 1

I slip off one glove, can’t touch the cup through leather, other skin, can’t feel the heat rise. I want my capillaries to dilate, my fingers to glow, something good, so I slip off my glove. Keep my face down, eyes gaze at coffee swirls, listen to the machines in background whirr. I wait.

He’s watching me, behind the counter. I’m alone, object of curiosity, objectified, warm air on my décolletage, wish I had a scarf, more fur, to shield, drape, hide me. Watch the patterns on the table swirl, white formica stained where he has wiped, cleaned, wiped again, white dance on white spins before my eyes in time with the whoosh and swirl of the drinks machine.

Silk on my skin, silk lining in my dress, my coat, no shield. I can’t go back, won’t go forward, not ready, not yet. Automat coffee, automat life, never tasting quite right, not like the fresh version everyone else is living, having, man behind the counter, going home to his kids, his wife, dinner on the table for him. Not me.

The coffee’s black, too bitter, cooling, can’t face the dregs, still hold the cup, hope of warmth fading. False life, false hope, but as long as I sit here, stay here, nothing will move on. I leave the last inch of coffee, a promise that there’s something more. Soon, I’ll leave, before he wipes the table one more time, before he stacks the chair. Soon, I’ll move my legs, one foot then the other, slip out from warmth to the cool night air, from limbo to action, the next step. But for now, I wait.

For the Book Analyst Facebook Group Writing Exercise

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One thought on “On Edward Hopper’s Automat

  1. I love the pacing of this piece. It’s almost like it reflects the movement all around her, but in contrast to the fact that she is kind of stagnated in her life. Really interesting.

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