Coffee Shop Blues
By Pete Mosse
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The man outside the coffee shop had sad eyes; you could see them behind
his thick glasses, as if hiding. That’s funny, trying to hide your eyes
behind glasses, like that would actually work, but it seemed to, oddly
enough. People would greet the man on the sidewalk, pat him on the
shoulder and maybe enjoy a joke together. But his eyes were sad, you
could see it, behind the glasses, behind the wan smile.
I couldn’t help but to notice the man; he’d been passing the window of
the Beantime Coffee House and Co. for as long as I’d been going there,
maybe four years or so. I didn’t pay much attention to him at first,
but when I was tired reading Faulkner or Salvatore, I noticed the man
with sad eyes. He looked like a vagrant, his clothes were filthy; his
pants might have been blue once, but not anymore; now they were a
cluster of browns and grays. The Sad Man wore a tattered black shirt,
the writing on it flaking off. His hair was gray and greasy, long and
knotty. Swarthy skin was stretched taught over his face, and
surprisingly the man had no facial hair.
So for four years this man passed in front of the BCHC. I never saw
him anywhere else. I never once questioned where he might go, what he
did with his time. All I could wonder was why his eyes were so sad.
What could make a man’s eyes like that? Death, I thought immediately.
Yes, Death could do that, but it didn’t make sense to me. While I
hadn’t had many experiences with Death, I had seen others pull through
and get over it. Of course, everyone’s different.
Then I thought of Time. Again, Time was something that could bring you
down, could sadden you like nothing else, save maybe Death. But again,
I didn’t think that it was Time that made the Sad Man’s eyes so…morose.
He carried himself tall, strong. His back was straight, his shoulders
squared. What was it then? What could bring this man’s eyes such
sorrow, such painful sadness?
It was then that I was shocked back into the physical world, out of the
land of ponder and imagination and into the world of heavy coffee scents
and hushed conversation. Beantime was rarely ever loud, and that’s why
I liked it. The atmosphere was pleasant, the coffee shop small. I sat
at a table that was hand painted then laminated in plastic. I had spent
so long staring at the Sad Man that I had forgotten about my coffee. A
waitress, Mary was her name, was the one who had shaken me from my
“Coffee, sir?” Her voice was deep, smooth. I had a secret crush on
her, if you could call it that. She was about my height, around five
and a half feet. Her hair was blonde and short and gelled against her
scalp. Her lips reminded me of two shiny Twizzler candies pressed
together. I could never look into her eyes too long, so I didn’t know
what color they were. Mary was the only person in Beantime that could
take my mind off of the Sad Man.
“Yeah, Mary. Could you make it a house coffee?” I smiled then looked
away. I couldn’t meet her eyes.
She left, taking my cold black mug with her. I looked out the huge
window again, searching for the Sad Man. He was gone, off to his own
place maybe, wherever that may have been. Instead I was left to look
into the park across the road, it’s trees broad and leafy, it’s benches
empty. It seemed a lonely place, the park, and when I thought about it,
so did Beantime. People generally came there to get away from
everything, to sip their drink and deal with their problems or reflect.
But not one person came with anyone else. It was like there was a
silent code saying “if ye enter this premise, ye come alone”.
But when I thought about it, wasn’t the park the same way? Parks are
places of fun, of life, of love waiting to happen and lovers waiting to
meet. But this was empty. There weren’t even animals.
Mary brought my coffee, again taking me out of my thoughts. I had this
sudden urge to ask her out, to dance with her, anything to repel the
loneliness. The loneliness that led to sadness. Then it struck me; was
the Sad Man in such a state because he was lonely? I had seen him
talking to people, laughing with them. Did that mean he wasn’t lonely?
It’s true that no matter who you surround yourself with, if they’re not
the right people, you’ll be lonely, in a sense.
When Mary left, I was left to blow at my scalding coffee and look out
the window again. An old Ford Fairmont went rumbling down the road
between the park and Beantime. And, as if on cue, the Sad Man
appeared. He was walking aimlessly down the sidewalk, his arms shaking
at the sky. He appeared angry, and even in anger, his eyes were filled
with sadness. I felt searing pain in my hand, and looked down to see
that I had spilled hot coffee over my hand. And my hand! It was shaking
so uncontrollably! I could only watch as it continued on for what
seemed hours. The shaking finally stopped, but I was shocked. Why had
my hand spasmed?
I felt this sudden urge to run after the Sad Man, to ask him why his
eyes were sad, to ask him why he flailed his arms through the air. Was
it Death that led him to be sad? Was it Loneliness? Time? What?
I heard cups touch saucers, an abrupt sound, almost painful to my
ears. I felt the stairs of people around me, into me. Why?
“Are you alright sir,” It was Mary. She was standing next to me, and I
had no idea why. I welcomed her presence though, it calmed me, took my
mind away from the Sad Man.
“Of coarse,” I answered. Her eyes were staring hard at me, as if she
were making a decision, judging me. They were beautiful, her eyes.
Blue, with specks of gold…
I was staring into Mary’s eyes! I couldn’t believe it; I had never
been able to look into her eyes before. They were young, full of joy,
“It’s just that, well, you screamed.”
So that’s why everyone was staring at me. I didn’t care though. For
the first time in a long time, I felt brave. I had looked into Mary’s
“Mary, tell me you’ll go to the park with me.”
I must have sounded crazed to her, but I felt so alive, so invigorated,
“I don’t even know you,” She replied to me, backing away slowly.
“That’s the beauty of it see. We to the park, we talk, we get to know
each other better.”
I had calmed myself down so it didn’t sound as if I were a ranting
fool. I cast a quick glance to the park just in time to see a bird
land. And then! Another bird landed next to it, robins, I believed.
“I don’t know sir.”
“Call me Sean,” I blurted.
“Sean. I have work until late…”
Maybe she secretly liked me; maybe she really wanted to go to the park
with me. Maybe she saw the Sad Man too…
“Then tomorrow, or the next day,” I sounded desperate.
Mary’s Twizzler lips pursed, her eyes looked to the park. Did she see
the birds, together?
“Tomorrow, maybe. At the park,” She said, not looking at me.
“Tomorrow,” I repeated, a smile growing on my face, my eyes wide.
“At five,” she continued. “But I have work to do now. Maybe I’ll see
you tomorrow. At that bench,” She pointed at a bench near where the
robins were hopping about.
“I’ll see you there,” I said back, not sure what else to say.
I left then, not knowing what else to do. The sad man was up the
sidewalk a ways. I tried to catch up with him but I couldn’t. It’s
always that way, I discovered. The sad man would always be one step
ahead of me, always. Always.
Mary never showed.