The café was bustling with customers; everyone lost in their thoughts & conversations; girls clicking selfies; couples holding each other’s hands across the table; friends laughing at each other’s jokes; everyone had their own little world to dwell in. It was just another Sunday.
Sam sat at the corner table, beside the serving counter. His usual seat, that gave him a sense of security from where he could view the entire café in one single glance, a perfect stand point to observe anyone who walked in the door without appearing creepy or suspicious to others; especially to the Asian woman, whom he’d been noticing for a few weeks now. Every Sunday at 3 p.m., she’d walk into the café & sit at the same table beside the door. She’d worn a light blue scarf around her neck every time he’d seen her, regardless of the weather or the dress she wore. She’d order a regular macchiato, plug-in her red color beat earphones and for an hour or so, she’d sketch away in her notebook. Once done, she’d leave the café, safely tucking the book into her bag. The routine was impeccable.
“Another regular latte, please” Sam politely requested at the counter. The waitress nodded in acknowledgement.
To any lay man, it would just seem that the girl was an artist, who used her time creatively. Sam believed the same too, until a few minutes ago when he’d gathered the courage to take a peek at her sketch as he took the long way to the counter from his seat, just so that he could pass by her table. He caught a glimpse of what looked like the sketch of a bridge overlooking the river. Now that his curiosity was piqued by the woman and her sketches equally, he raced his mind to conjure a clever way of striking up a conversation with the woman, without seeming too forward or lame.
For the entirety of the previous night, Sam had stayed up, thinking all about this woman and her sketches. Though he didn’t want to admit to himself that he was attracted to her, he did want to understand why she seemed vaguely familiar yet entirely distant to him all at once. He’d intended to find out after he heard the quote.
Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. 20 seconds of embarrassing bravery and something great will come of it.
So, on that Sunday afternoon, he entered the café at 1.30 p.m., a little early than usual, and made himself comfortable at his usual spot beside the counter.
Sharp at 2 o’ clock, the Asian lady walked in; dressed in faded blue distressed jeans and a loose plain white t-shirt that concealed her curves. She wore a pair of blue denims sneakers and had draped the light-blue scarf around her neck as usual. Sam noticed that unlike other days, there was something different about her today. She looked panicky, as if one wrong move would set her off. For the very first time since Sam had watched her, she appeared vulnerable; distracted. After a while, when he couldn’t think of a “Cool” way of approaching her, he decided to stick to the old “meet and chat” method.
He waited impatiently for her to complete the sketch, so that he could go talk to her without interrupting her work. He watched as the customers walked in and out; the waiters buzzed around the tables delivering orders, the coffee machine whirred, the utensils clinked. Out in the streets, occasionally the cars honked, people chattered, phones vibrated and rung from silence.
It seemed to him as if time had frozen, and he was stuck in its infinite loop. But as he watched her, he realized that she – a perfect stranger, had become familiar to him. Yes, he did not know who she was, where she lived, or what she did for a living. He knew nothing about her – nothing of consequence. But he knew that she wore the same blue scarf every time he saw her; that she liked her macchiato with two cubes of sugar; that she was an artist, whether or not it was her profession. He felt that she was seeking something and nothing else mattered to her; not the people around; not the world in which she lived; nothing. He knew that she curled her lips when she tried to concentrate; that she would sigh deeply and take a sip of her coffee when she got stuck. Sometimes she’d stare blankly out the window to better imagine the picture in her mind; that she’d bite the pencil butt when she was done reviewing her work; that she would avoid looking at people, almost as if it were a rule, probably because people were a distraction.
It’s the little things that tell the most about someone.
He snapped back to reality as she got up from her table, hurriedly settled her bill and walked out the door in a jiffy.
“Shit!” He muttered under his breath, as he collected his things and paced across the café into the street to follow her.
In a second, he shot back towards the café counter when realization struck him that he hadn’t paid for his bill yet. By the time he was out, she was nowhere to be seen. Cursing himself, he pulled out the phone from his jacket to check the time. There were 9 missed calls and 2 messages from his brother checking up on him to remind him of the doctor’s appointment that Sam had conveniently forgotten due to his quest.
For the second time that day, he walked into the café and towards the table that she had occupied. To his amazement, he found a fresh paper with the sketch of a park bench on the curb of a bridge overlooking a river. At the far end of the river, was what appeared to be a large carnival ground in which a giant Ferris wheel stood proudly. He picked up the page to have a closer look. A sense of déjà vu crept into his mind, but he couldn’t place the location.
At that exact moment, his phone buzzed again. The caller being his brother.
“Darn it! I’m late for the appointment.” he mumbled to himself in sheer frustration as he crumpled the paper into a ball, stuffing it into his pocket and ran out the café to get to his appointment.
To be continued…