Creative · Fiction · writing

Company in Solitude

The final part of the ‘Observations’ series.

There are those who come alone.

Whether it be out of choice or habit, they don’t say a word unless it concerns the barista and their order. Some stare vacantly, in a world of their own. Others smile and appear happy in their solitude. Indeed, those who venture here without a companion or more, are perhaps the most enigmatic at all.

“Two- No, sorry. One flat white. To have in.” An elderly gentlemen requests of the barista, curses himself for his stumble. She smiles at him regardless and makes the hot beverage, presents it beautifully with the frothed foam on top.

He always preferred to see it next to another, when he would remark on how the foam between the two looked like the ebb and flow of white-tipped waves.

He thanks the barista and takes his beverage, picks up a newspaper on his way past the condiment and sugar station, and walks straight to an almost hidden worn armchair in the corner. Not even a hesitation was made on his smooth, albeit slow, journey from the kiosk to his seat of choice. He merely chuckled as a child got under his feet, waved off the mother’s apology.

“We- I don’t mind.” His smile became thin as he turned his back on the family, reaching his safe haven at last.

The newspaper was always the same. Its front page was all but coated in red, word of the newest murder or worldwide catastrophe just waiting to happen. In all his years he had lost count of the grim headlines and even darker stories, doomsday news and disaster. He started to hypothesise that it made people feel better to stay buried in pessimism. At least that way, even the smallest glimmer of light would illuminate their deep pit of despair.

He skipped the front page news, turned the thin pages slowly and with great care. He looked for the ‘bright side’ news story that always featured in papers, the only bit of good news he ever heard these days.

At a table all but directly opposite, a young man tried to keep himself absorbed in his phone and social media newsfeeds. But after the fortieth read of the same insincere jabber and inspirational quotes, he slumped back in his chair and sighed.

An hour. He had been here for an hour.

“Are you finished with this, sir?” A polite barista asked him. He all but jumped out of his seat at the first bit of human interaction he had experienced in that expanse of time that should have been spent with someone else, and smiled thinly at the young woman beside his table.

“Yes, uh… I’m finished with it.” He couldn’t help but find the irony in his words as he let her take his long-cold Americano away. Only when she had gone back behind the kiosk did he slump once more and groan.

Oh, he was finished alright.

Was this the third date in a row that he had been stood up? He had decided not to keep count; it was too depressing to think about.

Standing up with a scrape of his chair, he tried to walk with a purpose out of the coffee shop.

He would very much like to know what that damn purpose was.

Natural light dimmed, artificial light replaced it. Almost closing time. They all had their lives to return to… whatever they were.


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