Saturday, August 13, 2016

Coffee

Overcast skies with a wet afternoon in store are the perfect foil to any good ideas it seems. As I kept waiting at the cafe, hoping for ____ to turn up, the depressing weather drew my attention towards it. Dark skies have this unique ability to draw your attention towards them more than anything else. Even in a market as busy as this, where the noise of the clanging metalware collides with the honking of vehicles packed like cattle on to a street, you cannot help but ignore it all, and continue staring into this bland emptiness. You see some odd people running around for cover, totally unhappy with all the water like a grumpy cat. And yet, they do not interest you more than a cup of steaming tea, while distancing yourself physically by a glass wall, and emotionally with a care-not attitude from the churning outside.

"Can I join you?" I heard a voice, from behind me, and I turned around to see a somewhat young-ish girl staring at me earnestly. Nothing special about her except perhaps her earnestness and curly hair, and a pair of glasses (those 'geeky or nerdy' or something called these days) obscuring her eyes. She perhaps sensed the confusion on my face, and hastily added, "there are no empty seats around." A quick scan was all that it took to affirm her claim, and given the opportunity to be a good Samaritan, I played it to the hilt. "Please seat yourself," I uttered softly, as I tried gathering my stuff thrown all across the table, while she sat down in the chair opposite mine.

It was not more than a few seconds before I resumed my empty gazing, only to realize that I now had a partner in crime. She seemed intent on knowing the secrets of the sky, as she kept looking at the sky. Raindrops kept sliding down the glass panel wall, perhaps too tired to run or walk down the path. Or perhaps they were just not interested in coming down, finding every possible way to delay the inevitable. I turned back to staring into that vast emptiness of the sky and beyond, as if meditating, though it is perhaps just another form. All of a sudden, the girl starts talking.

"Do you stare often at the sky?"

It seemed awkward, the question, as I turned around to see her staring at me for a change. "Why do you ask?" I spoke softly, curious to find the reasons for this question.

"Nothing. I just enjoy staring at the sky for no reason, and thought I had met someone who like doing it too."

"Don't you think it is a very personal question to ask?" I spoke. Staring at the sky is an intensely private thing to do. The sense of seclusion and freedom that it offers cannot be compared to very few things in the world. It has a Zen quality to it, allowing you to lose yourself to something else, while feeling free all the time.

"I agree," she spoke. A closer look at her revealed a sense of chattiness on her face, of charm in her voice. The waiter came up to her, and asked if she would like to have something. "A latte," she spoke, "and those wonderful almond biscuits that you serve with them would do, thank you!" The waiter slunk away from the stage, leaving only the two of us to muse and talk.

"Why do you ask the question?" I asked after a few moments of silence. Curiosity got the better of me.

"No particular reason really," she said, while she stared at me with a deadpan face.

"Are you random around people? Or was it a pointed question?"

"I am what I am," she remarked. "You don't have to answer the question; I am okay with it. But can't we keep silent company in staring at the clouds?"

I did not quite know how to react. It was a strange request in a life where one sees everyone seeking some meaning out of every little thing they do. Drinking the coffee, meeting people, working for someone - everything has a purpose to it. And yet, here was this girl, who just wants to stare at the dark sky, and randomly strikes conversations.

"Are you waiting for someone?" she began again. It feels odd when a random stranger wants to talk to you, and for some reason, you do not feel offended by the questions. Is this because you are enjoying the stranger's company? Or is it a consequence of anonymity, whereby nobody may judge you, or they may judge you incorrectly, much to your delight? I was not quite sure how to react to the situation. And yet, it felt good to have someone, as the coffee arrived, and she took it towards the window, to see someone just enjoy the steam and the coffee, while staring into a dark cloud.

"What do you think is going on out there?" she asked eagerly, as she drew attention to the milling crowds who were struggling to protect themselves from the steady downpour. "It almost looks like that famous rainy day painting you know."



I stared out, only to notice carefully the silhouettes of people scampering around. Yes, it did seem artistic, and perhaps even somewhat magical. And this moment to seemed to become above ordinary all of a sudden. Here I was, with a random stranger, knowing not why or how this discussion was happening. And yet, it was intriguing.



The girl just finished her coffee, and paid the bill. "Thank you," she said, "for not questioning who I am."


With that, she quickly exited the cafeteria with as much mystery as she entered.



After some time, ______ arrived. We greeted each other warmly with a hug, as she sat down.


"You know," she said in half jest, "you should not be seated here."

"Why?" I asked, surprised by her admonition. "What's wrong with this seat."

"I have been told that this table and corner of the cafeteria is haunted."

"Really? By whom? A girl?"

"You know that story?"

"What story? I was just joking!" I laughed nervously, even as my blood froze in absolute horror. Then she told me about a girl who would often sit in this cafeteria, but had died on a rainy day like this several years ago. Rumour was that she was often seen at this table by the visitors to this cafeteria.

I was quiet. Was that coffee unreal? I wondered, as I searched for the mug, only to notice that the only coffee mug there was my own.

Except for the cookies.


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