Finding a seat at the front bench, you gaze out the window. The pane of glass gives you the distance and protection of the voyeur but someone stares back and destroys the illusion. You realise that you are their show as much as they are yours. You stare at a man sitting in his car at the traffic lights, dare him to look over, to stare back at you. He doesn't, and the lights change.

'What'll it be.'

You haven't even picked up the menu, 'Coffee.'

'More information.'

You look at him - confident, perhaps arrogant: this is his turf. 'Cappucino,' you say.

He whips away, yells out your order and seconds later puts it in front of you with a flourish, not a drop on the saucer: good at his job.

You sit in the window and watch people come and go. It's not even lunch time and the place is full; late breakfast, early lunch, coffee, cake. Gossip and business; deals and dob-ins. The centre of their universe.

You finish your coffee and go up to pay. The waiter smiles, takes your money, moves on to the next. You turn to leave.


Someone grabs your arm.

Philippa J Burne 1996