Through a coffee shop window
Robert was exactly three months away from death when I had my first coffee. Loaded with four sugars, my latte was more a fast track to palpitations than a delicate beverage. Hey, what the hell, I was young, 17 and at that precise point in time was not worried about my caffeine or calorie intake. The café wasn’t crowded, only four people where present, and 2 of them where running the shop. An old man sat in the corner, an empty mug and a plate with crumbs scattered on it on the table in front of him. He gazed intensely out of the window, his mouth twitching in lop sided grins every now and again.
I shifted into one of the stools at the long bar facing away from the windows sipping my drink, relishing the sugar content and almost gagging at the flavor. This was not the experience that I had dreamt of, this was not a happy, it was not energizing, and it WAS an empty waist of $3.20 and four sugars. Tears pricked the edges of my already moist eyes, I blinked to spread them and a throb of pain pulsed in the bruise in my right cheek. I sniffed, swallowed and clutched the sleeve of my sweater in my hand to blot the tears into non-being. A strong, yet vary worn looking hand pressed a clean, white handkerchief into my other hand before I could use my sleeve. I dabbed at the corners of my eyes with it, letting the sift cloth soak up the excess moisture. The elderly man who had been so interested by something out side the window of the coffee shop slid into the bench beside me. I took a deep breath to steady and calm my self. Controlling and hiding my emotions was one of my skills. I handed the handkerchief back to the elderly man and opened my mouth to thank him. “No need my dear, no need” he said, carefully folding the handkerchief and placing it in his breast pocket. I closed my mouth, slightly wrong footed by this reading of my mind. “May I ask, as a concerned individual, what has upset you so?” I was again taken aback at the slightly odd way he spoke. “I’m sorry, I have to go”. I got out of the stool and walked to the door, leaving my coffee, leaving with my confusion, and leaving without, my wallet.
Of course I had to return for the wallet and so I entered, the next day after school to hopefully pick it up from the café. My eyes where dryer, and a new layer of foundation was spread evenly over to bruise, concealing it with more accuracy. I walked up to the counter and asked the man at the till if he had seen my wallet. He held up black leather
Wallet with a silver clasp, it was mined all right. After checking the student I handed to him from it, he handed it to me. “Thought you might like to know that Robert gave it to me” he said. “Robert?” I asked puzzled as I didn’t know a Robert. “The old feller by the window” said the owner. I looked to see the same man that had handed me the handkerchief the day before, calmly sitting by the window in the same spot, sipping a drink, and slowly deconstructing a muffin. I walked over to him and said
“Excuse me rob…” “SSSHH!” he said his head whipping around to fix me with a stair so suddenly anticipation and excitement it was transfixing. “He’s almost… THERE, look” All of this in a loud, hoarse whisper. He was pointing to a man standing by the edge of the street, looking left and right to check for cars, after doing this 3 times, he crossed. I watched this, confused, thinking that I was missing something. “And there it is again” Robert intoned, this time in the knowing, methodical way that best suites someone who knows what’s going to happen next. I watched the same mad, look left, then right, then left, then right, then left, then right. “Then crosses” Robert murmured watching the man stroll across the road. This happened again, the man completing the same ritual then crossing the road. Then he walked along the road, away from the coffee shop. By this time I was totally confused. Um Robert I wanted to…” “If you’re going to thank me for saving your wallet, think nothing of it” he said, reverting back to his old calm self”. “Thank you anyway though”. “That’s quite all right my dear”. I turned to walk away, then turned back “why where you watching that man”? At the mention of what had just occurred, Robert’s face lit with an expression of glee, “ohh you mean Mr. 123? Sit, please sit, ill tell you” and he pulled out the opposite him. Some of my early warning flags came on, an old man that watches people at a café, alone and inviting a young girl to sit with him a while? But then I saw the hope and excitement on his face, thought about the way he hand handed me his handkerchief the day before, and pulled out the chare to take a seat.
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