Muriel thought of stilettos.
Her own calloused heels were housed in heavy clogs. She stamped said clogs on stained floorboards while staring intently at bricks.
All fashionable cafes have at least one crumbling brick wall hung heavily with local art. Her eyes meandered from one over-priced painting to another, but her thoughts did not falter.
A woman sat opposite Muriel, just below her line of vision. It was this particular woman who had inspired Muriel’s current stream of conscience. She was sitting alone, spreading butter over a sliced bagel.
Her tiny brown feet were, of course, encased in murderously steep stilletos. Muriel wanted to stare, but the other woman had caught her doing so twice. Not wanting to risk awkwardness, Muriel had taken to staring at art.
She began tapping briskly, trying not to focus on anything. She felt her tic coming on. Her eyes had already filled and begun their steady leak. She bit her lower lip, holding it tightly between incisors.
Moisture built beneath her nostrils, creating an irritating itch. She scratched at it with obvious desperation. The woman was looking at her.
Muriel broke into a coughing fit. Everyone stared.
The word burst from her lower abdomen into the now silent shop. She shoved herself from her chair and stood unsteadily. Her tea spilled, but she did not notice.
Blood rushed her face, deepening her pale cheeks to a vivid crimson. She began to shake. Tension permeated from all present. Muriel clutched the corner of her table and screamed.
The woman stood and briskly left.
A barista approached Muriel gently. He placed his hand on her elbow and guided her back to a seated position. She had ceased her outburst and wept quietly to herself.
“Muriel? Can I get you some water?”
She hung her wet face and shook silently.
“Muriel, you’re fine. Breathe honey, you’re fine.”
She inhaled sharply, then broke into a fresh fit of coughing. She mumbled feebly, incoherently.
“She didn’t know honey. She didn’t know. Just breathe.”