I used to visit the coffee shop on 24th street, everyday for my normal dosage of caffeine. It started when I was sixteen, working a retail job at Old Navy on 68th street. Normally, I'd catch the train from Long Island, and then get off and walk the rest of the way. There was this African-American guy that would always sit in the coffee shop with his notebook and small dollar cup of coffee.
There wasn't a day that I wouldn't catch him sitting in the same old spot, cornered at the very last table to the back of the coffee shop by the window. On my sick days to work, he'd be in here drinking nothing but that coffee. There may have been once when I saw him with a bottle of water and a croissant.
I was having a bad day one of my days off, so I decided to leave home and take the train to sit in the coffee shop. It wasn't anything significant, but a quiet environment with friendly people who sat at separate tables, either reading newspapers or drinking Lipton Green Tea. That day, there were no more seats so I asked the man who I'd always see writing, if I could have a seat.
"Umm, Hello." I said.
He looked at me uninterested, "Can I help you with something?"
"May I sit here with you? There aren't anymore seats."
He moved his legs, "Have a seat."
He started writing in his book, again. I sat at the table rubbing my hands against my coffee cup, looking down at his book. The letters in the book were upside down so that made it a little hard for me to read what he was writing. Sometimes I'd move myself forward but try to do it unnoticed.
"What do you keep looking over here for?" He asked.
I shrugged, "Well I was trying to see what you were writing."
"Does what I write down interest you?" He looked me in eyes.
I glanced at the paper, "I can't read when ti's upside down."
He sipped from his coffee cup, "So then mind your damn business."
I couldn't help but laugh at how he was talking to me. My chuckles grew louder and louder, and everyone in the shop were looking at me crazy. My disturbances weren't tolerable so I had to hold my mouth to dissipate the sounds of my laughter.
"What's so funny?" The man asked.
I took a deep breath, "I was having a bad day today, but you just made it better."
"How is that?" he put the pen inside the book.
I blew the steam away from my cup, "Your attitude is very humorous."
"Okay." He smiled.
I leaned in the chair, "How long have you been coming to this coffee shop for?"
He pushed the book aside, "Thirteen years."
"Wow, that's a long time."
He went for his coffee cup and gulped the rest of it down, like water. I rudely stared at him do this instead of looking away or giving him time to drink in peace. The bell on the door kept going off, due to the overwhelming number of visitors.
"My name is Lena." I held my hand out ready to shake.
He joined in, "That's Mr. Johnson to you!"
I smiled and nodded, "Well, Mr. Johnson what do you write in there?"
He pulled the book from by the window sill and opened the book, showing me all of his many secret treasures of literature. I wasn't much of a fan of reading, because that's all they had us doing in school. I hated it, only because there was never any truth or feeling in any of the stories that I read while in school. Reading wasn't my gist anyway so I just watched a lot of movies and kept to myself.
"My wife died seven years, ago." Wrinkles grew to his face.
I frowned, "I'm sorry."
"It's okay. I just write little stories to keep her with me."
I squinted my eyes, "So kind of like allowing the characters to live through her?"
"No, she lives through my characters," he said.
"Would you like to read one?" He offered.
I was hesitant, "Well, I'm not really sure."
He put the book in front of me, "Go ahead."
I made a face, "I don't really like reading, sir."
"That's a shame. You don't care to educate yourself, do you?"
Quickly I got up from the table, "Have a good day, Mr. Johnson!"
He shook his head and looked very disappointed in me. I left the coffee shop uninterested in his story, but something turned me back to him. I had to give him a chance, too!