We sat opposite each other in the very quaint coffee shop, right next to the university entrance. The old, saggy shopowner, shuffling about cleaning tables, arranging the cutlery, frowning at every young couple that stepped in. Mr. Watson was a truly grumpy man and everyone had a laugh at the expense of his crooked nose that lifted every once in a while when he was miffed at men and women dirtying up his coffee shop. But he did have the skills of a professional barista, brewing coffee like he was the world authority at it.
“‘Afternoon, you two. How many cups each?” Mr. Watson said. Didn’t sound like he said something, instead it sounded more like a cross between a hiccup and a bark.
“3 each.” Ravi replied back. Mr. Watson grunted an approval and hobbled back to his machine. I grinned back at Ravi. Sometimes I felt bad for Mr. Watson, so old and slow, always working without any help, without his family. I think he’s only tired all the time.
“Do you think I should maybe help him a bit? To carry the mugs back to the table?” I wondered audibly.
“Nina, you do this every time! If you can’t stand this old man doing your bidding, why do you even suggest we come to this coffee shop?.” Well, Ravi was irritated.
Honestly, both of us had tried a couple of coffee shops around the place we lived in, but Mr. Watson made the best coffee, hands down. So we kept returning. It wasn’t about his old age as much as it was about the coffee. Ravi and I, we both loved our hot beverages as much as we loved each other. He liked it with extra milk and chocolate sauce, I liked mine strong and dark. We laughed over our coffees and we fought over the same done-to-the-T mugs of coffee.
A cup of coffee is exactly what gave our story some life. He saw me on a cold, snowy morning, sitting at the same coffee shop, trying to get a few extra words out of Mr. Watson. And as usual, I was unsuccessful. I kept trying to keep up a conversation and when unsuccessful, I would return to my phone. Ravi did notice me as a stuck-to-the-phone kind of girl. Well, I wasn’t. The time that I bumped into Ravi, was the same time where I was suffering from a lack of motivation. No amount of shopping, reading, cooking, studying etc. was of any help. I was stuck in an everlasting loop of ennui. Around the same time, I was in Vancouver working with the travelling firm. I was broke from all my education loans, even though I wanted to study more, I couldn’t. So I was stuck in the city that would one day become home.
Mr. Watson’s café, aptly named ‘What, Son?’, was filled like a new Indian restaurant. I had a table to myself in the corner, with no one to disturb the slight lull that had fallen into the restaurant as everyone tuck into their coffees. The scent filled everyone with a hope of plain happiness. Coffee does that. While I enjoyed the drizzle from my corner window, I was greeted with the sight of a man dressed like someone out of a French movie. He saw me look at him, smile. He smiled back. He came into the shop, promptly pulled up a chair and sat down next to me.
“Hi, do you need anything?” I asked him.
“No, but I will share a cake with you if you want.”
“Uh I don’t really like cake, would you mind the coffee?” I don’t even know why I went on with that conversation.
“Coffee is good.”
So I signaled to Mr. Watson asking him for another cup and failing to realize that maybe, just maybe, not everyone would like their coffee the way I did. Ravi gagged on his coffee the first time he tasted it. I thought I’d lose another opportunity at making friends.
“What is this dirt?” he asked, evidently contorting his face to the taste of the coffee.
“It’s a macchiato. Let me order a latte for you. I didn’t realize you might not like it.”
After an order that was replaced, we finally got down to talking. It was quite an uneasy start but we talked more. Like those ads from TV, where the boy and girl are talking about everything under the sun, staying up all nights just to make the conversation last a little bit longer. And oh boy, did we talk! Day and night, after work, before work, in-the-middle-of-work calls. He also did propose to me in the same coffee shop.
Right after my accident, following which I couldn’t speak, Ravi made sure he kept things as normal as we could. My temporal lobe was affected which meant I had a limited ability of speech. Except for a couple of more additions to my daily gadget list, nothing changed. The coffee remained the same, and the man I fell in love with over coffee did too.
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