A coffee shop in our hometowns was just a place to get a cup of joe. But step into a cafe in Ann Arbor and you”ll feel it pulsate. Here, a caf is a living system, with patrons playing roles as if they were the Golgi apparatus of something biological.

A seat in the middle of any cafe will plunge you right into this living, breathing system. From here, it”s possible to see the homeless man using the free internet access while he”s sipping the most expensive drink on the menu.

Don”t let this paradox be distracting because from here, you can also see that cute, young couple walk in. Everything seemed cute about them when they came in hand-in-hand, sharing their thrifty “coffee of the day.” They begin, as usual, with the smiles and the anecdotes of the day, purring over one another.

A sudden coolness passes over the guy, like a lingering and isolated draft, but the girl is still smiling about the last thing they laughed at. He just looks at her, a few seconds pass, and his hands are on her folded arms which are on the table. He starts speaking very quickly and quietly through pursed lips, obviously about something he”s been meaning to say, and she responds only with little, sad head nods. She sinks forward more and more with each of his terse words until her face is lying in her arms.

He stops talking, leans over to give her a kiss on her dropped head, and says that it”s up to her. Eventually, she lifts her head back up with the song of a new conversation, and they resume the first performance.

Ahead, hanging plants and a bookshelf discourage perception of the other end of the cafe. But, behind the leaves and vines there is something guerilla-like occurring. It”s the cafe nerd who has been there for hours each book stacked on his table testifying to his studiousness. He”s tired now, and he”s taking a break by a cafe version of bird watching.

His line of vision takes you past the vines, diagonally across the room, and to the table where a pretty girl is reading a paperback. It”s obvious he”s looking at her: Every time she shifts in her seat, his eyes simultaneously and drastically change direction in fear that she”ll spy him spying. But he”s not staring, he”s admiring and when she looks at her watch and gets up to leave, his time is also up.

His mental stumbling is perceivable from across the room, and he doesn”t get up to talk to her. Instead, she walks out and he goes back to studying alone at his table.

Behind, there are those couches straight out of “Central Perk.” There is a guy and a girl there, but they aren”t a couple because they are sitting across each other on different couches. They came to the cafe to study together, as the platonic premise goes, and their open, yet ignored books lying to their sides vainly try to support this.

They”re chatting, which in their case means that he”s doing his best to charm her with fun dialogue. Meanwhile, she”s holding her head up starting with her elbow on the armrest, her hand under her jaw, and her fingers curled around the back of her neck, and she”s happy. She smiles prettily as he

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