It was a rather quiet cafe in the busy street in a big city. It had all the hallmarks of failed blitzcaling and a wretched afterlife. I liked the coffee. Every time I had been there. One of those places where they don’t have frills and shout outs. You order. You stand in the queue. You collect your coffee. Walk to a table of your choice. Read. Talk. Stare into the ceiling. Whatever.
The man in question waited for his turn. I figured quickly that his wallet ran out of money before his patience did. Without a coffee and brimming with embarrassment, he borrowed some righteous anger and thundered at the lady at the cash counter: “Do you know who I am?”
At this point the whole cafe, I mean, mostly tables, chairs and two people including yours truly, looked up. He could have been one of us. Tired look. Eyes desirous of coffee. Sparse strands of hair on his head making a feeble attempt to stand up.
The young lady at the cash counter looked at him and said, “No Sir”. That his thundering evoked such a solid yet clear message shook the chill off me and I was fully awake.
Whatever penny that had to drop had dropped with a silent clang from the empty wallet. He looked around the cafe. There were two people in the cafe. Me. And an old lady huddled in a distant corner who stayed huddled in the company of her book.
I looked at him and he looked at me. He turned to the lady at the cash counter and said, “I come here every day and you don’t know who I am?”
The young lady with a Buddha-like economy with her words and her emotions repeated, “no sir”. He turned to look at me again. I looked at him with some curiosity. He swiftly turned to look at her. She looked at me.
The wretched long arm of embarrassment seemed to have enveloped him in a warm embrace.
“You don’t know who I am. I don’t want your coffee” he said with some seriousness. With those words, he stomped out of the cafe. Holding a sputtering assortment of other words just below his tongue, giving me a quick cold stare as he opened the door and disappeared into the street.
The door closed and I looked at the young lady. She was busy adjusting her lipstick using her phone as a mirror. It was as though the tired man with sparse hair had never come in. The last shards of his coarse “I don’t want your coffee” was still floating in the room and ringing in my ear.
Perhaps she had seen enough and more of such people. Or maybe she was a brave lass. Maybe she didn’t care. Or she couldn’t tell. Or the phone and her lipstick helped her handle the tension. I was left with a bevy of questions.
I sat with my coffee. She played a good song as the coffee coursed my veins. I thought of the man. “Do you know who I am?”, he had asked. “Idiot”. I muttered.
I left after finishing the remainder of the book that I wanted to finish. The young lady was on selfie mode. Puckered lips and all that. The music played well.
As I stepped on to the posh street of a business district, many bobbing entitled heads walked by. I merged into it with ease. Carrying my questions and the words that I drank in with the coffee. After a couple of minutes, as I shuffled my feet along, I wondered if I should have taken a selfie at the cafe.