Childish

A poem about a man playing peekaboo with a child across a café.

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1. Childish

Easing down into the pleasant clutches

Of a worn leather armchair,

I loosen my limbs and

Pull the plug on my thoughts,

​Draining my mind

Of a day filled with small talk

​And office based stress,

​To listen to the quiet of the café.

 

​I signal to the waitress and

​As she approaches, I acknowledge

Her imperfect eyeliner and coffee-stained apron

​And think how beautiful she is regardless.

​"The usual?"

"One hot chocolate, no cream."

​There's a moment of quiet as we exchange coppers

​Before she returns to the counter.

 

​I close my eyes briefly

​And think of the waitress.

Jess. A lovely name for a lovely woman.

Mid-thought, I'm disturbed by the patter

​Of tiny feet, and open my eyes

​To see a toddler gripping the edge

​Of my table in his pudgy hands.

​Two huge blue eyes examine me thoughtfully.

 

"Peter! Leave the man alone!"

​An embarrassed woman calls

Running to scoop up the inquisitive child.

​She apologises and returns to her table

​Across the other side of the room.

​Peter, now held prisoner by the highchair,

​Gawps at me like an artist

Would at a masterpiece.

 

​A smile passes my lips

​And I feel an unfamiliar flutter in my chest.

​Something almost...paternal. I embrace it.

I place my palms over my eyes and

1, 2, 3 - PEEKABOO!

​Peter giggles and gurgles in delight

And his mother, oblivious,

​Taps away on her mobile phone.

 

Peter's turn. 1, 2, 3 - PEEKABOO!

I feign shock and he explodes in a fit of laughter.

​I grin at him, pulling faces, when

​Jess returns with my steaming mug

​Complete with a saucer and spoon.

​She counts two sugar cubes. Plip, plop.

​I catch a glimpse of her cleavage as she

Leans to place the mug. I restrain my eyes.

 

​I thank her with a wink and

​She reciprocates as she leaves me for the store room.

I glance back towards Peter but the highchair

​Lies empty. Did the prisoner escape?

​Where's his mother?

​The café door swings shut and I turn in time to see

​Parent and child walking into the fading light.

​The tables are empty. Jess is gone. I am alone.

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