Café

By Richard Rochemont


My nose sniffed the salty air; there wasn't anything like a beach-side café. The sand was a distant beige, but the wood which propped me above it stood a pale grey. I was never much of a beach aficionado until I started sipping cappuccinos in this rustic café, which rested on bleak sandy wood. The waves were close enough to hear, but the birds weren’t.

Seagulls… no.

I squinted.

Pelicans, a pod of them. I watched them glide meters beyond the shore, feet above the ocean. They allowed their wings to open, rendering their brownish feathers to the winds will, and when they dropped too low, several flaps helped them climb back up. I left the birds and took a look around.

I looked at the man cornered to the left, he held his phone to his hear with one hand and a half-crumbled half-eaten, banana oat muffin in the other, slowly etching his way to its end, timing every bite with his conversation. His brow was fixed in contortion, and with every pause between response and answer, the lines on his forehead deepened. He ignored the crumbs he caused, maybe he didn't recognize his mess, but the finches did.

Ahead of me paced the barista, she stood behind the counter fretting over the unresponsive coffee grinder. She would open the machine’s top, and continue to replace its charred coffee beans with a heavy Caribbean. Each effort to restore the machine was met with dismay, but she wouldn't stop trying. With every fruitless opening of the broken coffee grinder, the aroma of the Jamaican coffee bean marked the air and sharpened my mind; I hoped she never fixed it.

The sun finally came from under the clouds, and in that moment I decided to look up at her. She sat diagonal to me, equally distracted in the abstract world. On her table sat a sketch pad and a pencil, but no eraser. Her glasses reflected me, as mine did likewise to her. I looked away.

The scene was quiet in a practiced way, as if everyone knew their own problems and realized that awareness and worry weren't paired, but rather separate. Noise came and went, but none of it was noticed, except the constant crash of the waves. The few that we were decided to let this moment overcome all others. This café was a bubble.

I wondered about the café and where it came from, then pivoted in my seat and gave myself to the sun. It heated everything; the man’s conversation, the finches hunger, the barista’s vexation, the perfume of the charred coffee, the women’s gaze on me, the speed of her pencil. But the waves never changed, and the sand never moved