The City's awareness moves. It walks through motions as it focuses in on various parts of itself. The City goes to a library, attends a baseball game, walks through the park, strolls through an office.
A shadowy silhouette, the same approximate shape and size of whoever happens to glimpse it, like a strange mirror. Fuzzy at the edges, not thoroughly defined. They go unnoticed, hiding in peripheral vision, largely ignored except by small children and those few who are willing to see something strange. They leave no footprints, never enter nor leave, they are simply focused or unfocused.
The City observes a coffee shop. They watch the constant motion of to-go orders and the calm of those who stay a while. They feel the grounding comfort of each hand cupped against warm paper or cool plastic. They observe the universal small relief of each first sip.
This coffee shop is well liked. Its an unusual space where the majority of the minds in it feel something closer to peace, and those who enter troubled exit a little bit less so.
The City focuses here.
[the city becomes visible] I don't know what I'm seeing. I feel fear tempered by the blanket of my barista persona, my required politics. I do not want to be seeing this shadow person, my gut tells me to ignore it, look at my shoes, turn around a rebre the pot of the decaf drip coffee — but it is standing at the counter, presumably looking up at the menu, so it’s a customer. Customers must be attended to, so I attend. I fall back on my base instincts: food service trained dialogue.
A shaky “how can I help you?” comes out of my mouth. A shiver runs up my spine and I know it’s looking at me.
[awkward stiff ordering of a coffee]
The shadow takes its small coffee black and sits at a table near the window. I should be restocking cups, and cleaning the counters, but I stare. I don’t want to be seeing this shadow person sitting quietly in the corner, but I already am so I see it fully, without restraint.
Eventually another customer comes in the door and with as much dread and regret as before, I pull my eyes from the shadowy figure and attend. I barely see this man ordering from me, and can’t recall any defining characteristics about him later.
After he’s helped and walking towards the door with a paper-clad cappuccino in hand, I look back at the corner table near the window. The shadow is gone, but the cup is still there. There are a few other people sitting in the shop, two on laptops, one watching something in AR, two friends chatting. None of them seem perturbed, and I wonder if they saw the shadow at all. I swallow my fear and walk over, pick up the cup. It’s half empty and lukewarm. I walk back to the counter, dump the liquid in the sink, and put the cup in the recycling. I restock the cups and clean the counters.