Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Very Short Story: Ruminations In a Coffee Shop

Photo: BusinessWeek
She‘d handed in her resignation letter an hour earlier.

It had been five years that commenced beautifully before petering out into a bleak, uninteresting end. Five years at La Dolce Vita Publishing House had robbed her of her zest for life, and instigated her search to finding life's purpose. She'd been stuck in a rut for the past three years, and desperately needed to climb out of it, despite knowing how frightful she was of wading into uncharted waters. More than anything else, she knew had to quit her job or run the risk of never finding her raison d’ĂȘtre.

At this juncture, solitude was what she craved; she needed to sit alone and think.

Dark, pregnant clouds hung over her as she made her way to the cozy coffee shop not too far from her apartment. She walked briskly in a bid to get inside before the rain began.

As she took a seat, a morose-looking waiter swiftly appeared to take her order.

“Good day, Madam. May I take your order?”

“Good day. Um, I’d like an espresso with no milk or sugar, please.”

“OK, Madam, one espresso coming.”

“Thank you.”

As the waiter walked away, she wondered what story lurked behind his sad, dark eyes. Perhaps he was suffering the same plight as she. Perhaps he was just as disconnected from life as she was and searching for meaning.

She’d gotten her first job working as a temp at La Dolce Vita with the aim of determining a suitable career path, while gaining work experience and earning some money. Unfortunately, the career decision was never made, and so a year turned into three years, three years into four, and four years into five. It wasn't until the crippling ennui threatened to suck the life out of her that she called it quits.

The fear of not knowing the next step to take in her life had kept her from quitting her job, even when she knew she was losing herself and mind to it.

The waiter returned with her espresso flashing a perfunctory smile that she returned.

“What am I going to do with myself?” She pondered hopelessly.

She was in the least bit interested in publishing; neither did she consider herself a writer, even though she’d been featured as a guest columnist in several local dailies and magazines. Sure, she was intelligent and could write proficiently on a wide variety of subject matters when in the right frame of mind, but she didn't particularly consider these attributes talents. It’s not like she could perform brain surgery, or launch a spacecraft. In her view, there were many people just like her; hence there was nothing exceptional about her writing skills or her ability to make intelligent inferences. 

She took a sip of her coffee as she watched a couple walk into the coffee shop. They both looked satisfied and happy with life, like they’d discovered the end of the rainbow. She hated the sight of them instantly, and hated herself for feeling that way. 

Her emotions were the result of a bitter argument she'd had with her ex-boyfriend two days earlier. She’d ended her four year relationship with Nkosi after informing him that she needed a break from their relationship to get herself in order. Of course, he’d taken it the wrong way, and was quick to tell her how selfish and inconsiderate she was for opting out of their relationship without a hint.

“Without a hint?!” she’d laughed dryly.

The problem with Nkosi was that he still wore rose-tinted glasses while she’d taken hers off a long time ago. They had grown too comfortable to the point they were stagnating; at least she thought she was. She couldn't think of herself, by herself, for herself – it was always ‘we’.

“We have to go see such-and-such movie.”

“We need to visit the Arts and Crafts village.”

“We should go on a Safari.”

Most of the time she didn't want to partake in any of those ‘we’ activities, or if she did, she wanted to do them alone. 

She’d loved Nkosi once upon a time, but that love had steadily grown cold and distant. She longed for something new, something different - even though she couldn't quite articulate what it was.

A strong draft of cold air prompted another sip of her coffee.

Outside the rain had subsided, and rays of sunlight made the tiny puddles on the walkway glisten. Oddly, the reflection of light on the walkway injected a glimmer of hope into her drab thought pattern: “No matter how hard it rains, the sun will always prevail. It may be days or weeks before it beams, but the sun will always shine.”

She drank what was left of her coffee, left some change on the table, and walked out of the coffee shop with her newly found optimism determined to take a chance on her next major decision… without fear or regret.