Friday, September 25, 2009

Black Coffee and Daisies - Part I

It was an evening like any other and as usual my afternoon nap had extended well beyond it's usual duration. But what did I really have to look forward to, wouldn't it be better to just go back to sleep, dream a while longer, atleast there, some things, if not all, were right.

NO! came a scream from somewhere inside...stop feeling sorry for yourself and make something of the day...being locked and cooped up inside the apartment is no way to waste a perfectly fine evening. I unwillingly accepted the pep talk and made my way out of bed.

Ten minutes and a shower later, I was actually more optimistic about the imperfectness and tribulations of my life and how to deal with them, amazing what some hot water can do to your perspective. I knew what I needed, I grabbed my Jacket and keys and rushed out the door.

The weather outside was a little chilly, but just as welcoming as it seemed from my apartment window.

I decided to drive down to my favourite coffee house. That should do the trick, a nice dose of caffeine should give me the kick I so desperately needed. I parked my car in the nearly packed parking lot, and scurried towards the coffee house. As I pushed the door to enter, I was welcomed by a flurry of glares, emotions and aromas, some I was accustomed to and some that were new, some curious and some indifferent, some that made me feel comfortable and others that made me queasy. I scanned the room trying to locate my regular table, hopefully it had not been taken yet. It took some time for me to locate it. I knew where it was just that a place looks so different when it's full of people against when it's empty. To my delight it was empty, there are not many takers for a table in a quiet corner. I made my way through the crowd and took my seat. The table felt a little cut off from the rest of the coffee house, and that could be one of the reasons I liked it. It let me be.

I was a constant visitor and had developed a cordial relationship with the owner, a chubby man in his late 40's, with a slight beer belly and a beaming smile, his spectacles constantly looked like they were going to fall off his nose any moment, but surprisingly they never did, like they were glued that way.

I hinted at the attendant and he knew what my order was. A while later, he placed a tray on my table with my order. I looked at the familiar contents of the tray. A blueberry swizzle and a cuppuccino.

Being a writer, one learns to observe one's sorrounding with an eye for detail. You learn to pick up stuff, the way people walk, they way they talk, sit, play with their hands, squint their eyes, their laughter, their frowns and a plethora of human emotions, habits and sensibilities.

Sitting on this table, was like being posted at a vantage point. The rest of the coffee house became a drama unfolding itself layer by layer, part by part. It helps to observe, that I have already stated, but it's more than that. It allows me to be both a spectator and a participant, even if it's a passive one. Allows me to be a part of their conversations and in a non-personal way become a part of a minute instant in their lives. Helps me to medicate the scars of my loneliness.

Anyways, the reason for writing this particular story is not to tell you about my tribulations as a writer or fish for sympathy. It's about what happened on this particular day that has stayed with me till today.

Like most days, I usually sat at the coffee house for hours, I had the luxury of time unlike most people who frequent this place. The crowd usually begins to thin as the evening wears on. Today was no different, there were only a few tables that were occupied. I was just overhearing a couple of men on the table to my left, arguing over stocks and the volatility of the stock market. I couldn't make head or tail of their conversation and the subject of finance was not one of my strengths in college. But I kept listening, being bored was better than having nothing to do.

Suddenly, I was jolted from monotony by the sound of the door opening and my attention swayed in it's direction. A very immaculately dressed man entered, he looked like he was in his late 50's, but his posture and mannerism gave the impression that he might be younger. He seemed to be a little extravagantly dressed for something as routine as having coffee. The coffee house in itself was more humbler when compared to the other more elite shops located in many of the five-star hotels in the city. If it hadn't been for his age, I would have thought the man was getting married or maybe on his way to a stately dinner. He had his right hand in his coat pocket and it seemed like he was toying with something, maybe a watch or a piece of jewelry, I couldn't be sure. His left hand had a single ring, probably his wedding ring. As he walked towards an empty table, he had an elegance, a poise about him, almost an aura which differentiated him from the genre of people that I had been observing all evening. This was an interesting development, my day might not be a complete waste, I thought to myself.

He took the table almost parallel to mine, with the counter to his left and the men discussing their stocks to his right, and sat down. Motioned for an attendant, and whispered something in his ear and then returned to fumbling with the contents of his pocket. He didn't even look at the menu, which meant that he frequented the place often and almost always placed the same order. Funny, I had never seen him before. But it was nice to note that we had something in common.

He looked relaxed and rather peaceful, although he wore a bereaved look on his face. His order arrived a few minutes later. He picked up a sugar sachet and began emptying it's contents into the cup. He stirred for a while and then lay the spoon down on the tray. Nothing till now, seemed out of the ordinary so I decided to find another subject till something more interesting happened. Just as I was about to lift my gaze, he did something peculiar. He took out his wedding ring and placed it in the saucer. He then withdrew, threw back his head and closed his eyes for a few seconds, his lips moved as if in a prayer or reciting a sermon, took a deep breath and returned to his normal posture. He did this with such subtlety that I doubted anyone else in the vicinity even noticed.

When he opened his eyes again, the seemed moist, like a few tears were floating but reluctant to fall. He then held the cup and saucer in his hands, in some sort if an embrace, like one would hold a pastor's hand at church. And he stayed that way for the rest of the time he was there, like he was in a trance. Apart from some odd moments when he would sip his coffee, he remained indifferent to his surroundings like he was in some other world. I was almost aching to see some sort of reaction or to make some sense of what was progressing before me. But I couldn't. I had lost track of time myself.

Finally, I saw his fingers relax and let go of the cup, then just as unexpected and astounding as his entry had been, he put the ring back on his finger, paid for his coffee and walked out.

( be continued)

(Image courtesy -