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Black Coffee

By Shanice Alexandre-Oezbicer

A seat at the window. Crumpled paper. An old quill. Messy hair. Round glasses and an empty cup.

He drinks his coffee black.

‘What are you doing?’

‘What do you mean? I’m bringing him his order.’ I quickly stopped her by grabbing her arm and giving her a panicked look. She tilted her head, confusion gracing her features.

‘What are you doing? He hasn’t finished the second page yet.’

She frowned at me. ‘Second page of what?’

‘I don’t know… but he hates being disturbed when he is not at least on the third page.’

My colleague looked at the concentrated young man, whose eyes were glued to his paper, eyebrows furrowed. He was locked up in his world of words and poems and lyrics, as always. There could have been a war going on outside, he would still be sitting here at that very table in this coffee shop, with his dark green oh-so-expensive-looking winter coat and the habit of chewing on his bottom lip whenever he would put the quill aside to think for a moment, or when he was unsatisfied with what he had written. Not that I watched him.

‘He is just so weird… honestly, I’ll just set the cup down in front of him and leave.’ She rolled her eyes and was about to approach his table a second time, when I stopped her again, this time more aggressive than before.

She let out an annoyed groan and shoved the cup into my hands, making the black liquid almost spill on the floor. ‘You do it then, this is too exhausting for me. We have other clients.’

I opened my mouth to contradict her, but she was gone before I had the chance to. I didn’t know why the nervousness that suddenly started to fill every part of my body, made an uncomfortable shiver run down my spine in that moment. It wouldn’t have been the first time that I brought him coffee. I would bring it to him every Monday, Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. The sound of the fragile porcelain lightly hitting the table would make him look up at me, giving me a thankful nod, which I would politely return and then I would walk away again. Occasionally he would give me a small smile that was almost hidden in the corners of his mouth or he would even say ‘thank you’. His ‘thank you’s’ were like a reward. Something that would make everyone feel somehow appreciated and flattered. Whether it was the tone of his voice, or the way his eyes seemed to smile endearingly, maybe it was his freckles, that made him look rather adorable and completely contradicted the image of the ‘mysterious young man who drinks his coffee black and cold’… I had no idea. I had so many questions. So many things I wanted- no- needed - to know. For example the fact that he never drank anything but coffee, or the fact that he always got a call at the same time, from the same number when was here, the scar under his left eye, the way he always seemed to be looking out for something, as if he knew something we all didn’t.

The past months consisted of an exchange of eye-contact and ‘thank you’s’ or ‘good bye’s’ and I was surprised to catch myself just the slightest bit attracted to that man. I decided to put these thoughts aside for now and just do my job. My hands were shaking incomprehensibly and with every step I took my heartbeat increased.

When I stood right before him I forced a smile onto my lips and cleared my throat. ‘Your coffee, sir’ I said and put it in front of him. His eyes followed my movements, then met mine and for one second, I swore, my heart stopped beating. He then nodded and turned back to his papers seemingly over-reading his work and adjusting his glasses while doing so. Just when I was about to leave again his deep, raspy voice stopped me. ‘Did you wait with the order until I finished my second page?’ When I looked up at him I saw a playful smirk on his lips, I had never seen that before and when I thought my heart couldn’t beat any faster than it already did, I was proven wrong in that moment. When I didn’t respond after a minute, because I had problems with staying calm, he looked up at me, through his round glasses with the smirk still plastered on his lips. ‘I-I… well….’ I began stuttering and immediately slapped myself internally for being so unprofessional. This was work, I had to remind myself. ‘Yes, since I know you don’t like to be disturbed while writing the first two pages.’

His smile widened. ‘You made notice of that fact?’ I nodded my head, offering him a small smile. ‘You must have been watching me then.’ He added in a playful tone, making my cheeks go crimson.

I cleared my throat and smiled my typical waitress smile (God knows how long it took me to perfect that). ‘It’s my job to make our costumers feel comfortable, sir’ I replied. It was the truth, just not the whole truth. He chuckled at me and it sounded as if he wasn’t believing a word I had just said, then took a sip of his coffee, eyes still locked with mine. My eyes trailed down to his Adams apple, watching it bopping up and down as he was gulping. When his lips disconnected from the porcelain he held the cup up, so that it was right in front of my nose: ‘Cold,’ he pointed out.

I nodded my head and he smiled at me. His smile was beautiful, it was adorable. He had a dimple on his right cheek, when he smiled. I had never noticed it before. ‘How do you know I like my coffee cold?’ he asked and rested his chin on his hand, observing the cup that was still in his hands.

‘I noticed, that you always waited for it to cool down, so… I thought you might want to drink it right away.’

‘You seem to have a talent in observing people…' he said, rather to himself than to me, as if he was thinking about something.

‘That’s how we keep our clients, si-‘ – ‘Will’ he interrupted me. I looked up at him, a bit surprised, but then quickly covered my emotions up with a smile. ‘You should at least know the name of the man who you have been watching for the past months…’ he added, and my smile immediately faded.

‘I told you already, we just want our clients to be c-'

‘Don’t worry, I don’t mind you watching me at all. I admit, that I am quite fascinating.’ he continued teasing jokingly.

I rolled my eyes at him. ‘You seem to have a lot of confidence.’ My tone of voice was way harsher than intended but it didn’t seem to bother him.

‘I do, he answered, took another sip of his cold coffee and grabbed one of his papers that were spread out on the table. ‘What is more gentle than a wind in summer? What is more soothing than the pretty hummer, that stays one moment in an open flower and buzzes cheerily from bower to bower.“ He looked at me expectantly, the previous smugness nowhere to be found. His eyes looked genuine.

His words were genuine. It was how he said it. It didn’t surprise me that it was unbelievably good. I had always known he was good, just by looking at how his eyes wandered over the pages, how he would quietly murmur the lines and then smile to himself. I knew that poetry must have been a part of him, but the way he spoke those words… as if they held a secret just meant for one person to discover. It was beautiful.

‘That’s… wow…’ I breathed out and blinked a few times in realization.

‘Do you like poetry?’

‘Well, I obviously do, don’t I?’

He laughed and folded the paper two times, handing it to me. I looked at his outstretched hand, then back to him and frowned.

‘It’s the whole poem.“ He answered my unspoken question and smiled. I hesitantly took it out of his hand, my fingers brushing against his, sending a shiver down my spine for an unknown reason the second time this day.

‘Why do you give this to me?’

‘I don’t know.’ he shrugged. ‘Poems are meant to be heard, read, inspire people. I can’t keep them all to myself, I want people to feel what I feel, to see what I see, to think what I think.“ I couldn’t keep myself from giggling, quickly covering my mouth with my hand. Who talked like that nowadays? Although it seemed strange at first, secretly, it made me admire him even more.

‘Are you laughing at me?’ He quirked his eyebrow. I cleared my throat and smiled.

‘I am not. I just think it is refreshing to hear someone talking this passionately about something,’, I answered. He didn’t seem convinced but let it be.

‘I’ll gladly read it, Si-‘ I interrupted myself, reminding myself that I had the permission- no, that he was now insisting I call him by his name. ‘Will.’

He smiled and nodded, satisfied.

I walked off with the folded piece of poetry in my hand and a pounding heart.



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