Portrait of a twenty-something woman, afraid of aging and searching for solace, set in her regular coffee shop. Part of the Bar-room Portraits collection.
The woman sitting in the corner has a large mug of foamy latte cradled in her hands. When she stands, she's noticed. She looks like a tramp but she's idolized anyway. Her bleached blond hair brings attention to her face--and then, looking downwards, she wears an orange sweater that doesn't cover up her waist and dark blue jeans that sag low. Her sweater summarizes but blurs her figure. Her pants tug her ass. In the gap between her pants and shirt, a thin strip of underwear shows--and even a line of leg below. She flaunts her body, swings her hips as she goes up for a refill. Her attitude's too casual to be carefree.
The women stare in contempt. Men stare as their imaginations act. Carefully she smiles at the store-keeper as part of her facade, avoiding the eyes of the people she knows are watching. She works to maintain a whimsical world where sex isn't foremost--where sex is unknown. In her experience, she's found that innocence is enticing.
The store owner and she talk for a while as she positions herself to get small favors. She wants him to admit that she's attractive by giving her perks that other women don't get. He knows her game but concedes that she deserves some credit for her patronage, in a diplomatic gesture. It's the same with the too-worldly in the store: they know not to pursue her, because she'll expect total engagement. A few men come to her as she walks back to her seat. They lean in but she smiles politely, quickly answers them, and steps aside.
Sitting back down with a tall glass of water she glances over at a nice young man who's been here before. He's innocent and eager, ready for the chance just to sit down with her. On previous occasions, he'd giggled to himself from her even talking to him. She knows his naivete. She preys on it.
He's waited for her to come back in the store, after not seeing her for a week. Her glance is enough to surprise him. She's known to so many; he's startled to know that she even remembers him. As planned, her eyes pull him to her table.
Most of the men who fancy her were disillusioned long before they met her. Their innocence had already been dispelled by the shriek of love conquered. They know her game, but they haven't given up. They leer. They're ready to play along for her. She's wise. She's aware of what they do. But those men don't revitalize her like innocence does.
He makes his way through tepid conversation he afterwards regrets, where she nods as little as possible--to deny him victory but not to destroy him. He presents a token of their friendship: a small glass rose. She thanks him: "I love it!," squeezes his hand, and wishes him good-day. She'd forgotten something, she says, and she walks out of the coffee house--taking the flower, leaving him alone.
The young ones' gifts are helpful. They build her confidence. Every poem, every plush animal, gets put away on the shelves in her room. The tokens reaffirm her every time she gives herself away to another man.