The Coffee Ghost
The air was light but still and damp from the rain, the sort of air you find yourself smelling and wondering where you had experienced it before.
I walked out of the wide oak doors of the bookshop. It was as if I’d walked into another world, everything had changed since an hour before when I met my friend, South African John for coffee in the cafe above the shop. The cafe was a place to relax and drink different coffees, tea’s or chocolate, their large sized mugs were as big as some tea pots. You tend to see the same people there each week, individuals and small groups of like – minded souls. a Chinese waitress served with a difficult smile, there was something not quite right between her and the tall New Zealand man (I presume NZ) I took him to be her boss, he kept bobbing in and out of the back room leaving short commands for her. I asked her if she enjoyed her job, trying to strike up a conversation, she said “Sometimes!” that’s all she said, the way she held her head made it clear enough she wasn’t happy with the situation, she busied herself with the coffee machine. John took my attention away from her as he walked away from the counter. We browsed through books (a novelty idea to me, just pick up a book and take it to the cafe), sipping coffee at a table near the window as if we had all the time in the world at our disposal.
I was engaged in a large book about a man travelling through all the states of the U.S.A in a London taxi, it was intriguing, insightful and fun. By the time I was half way through my beverage, the Chinese waitress had been substituted for another Chinese waitress, I wondered what their friendship was like and did they share a common disdain for the NZ boss.
In front of me and behind John sat a young woman with an angelic face that I found myself visiting between American states. I imagined the possibility that she was descended from the model made famous in Dante Gabriel Rosseti’s paintings, she was the modern Pre Raphaelite image, she was reading a book called “The Road less Travelled” by M. Scott Peck, I have never read it but I must have picked it up somewhere because the author and title are very familiar to me, I associated it with Christianity. Maybe she was an angel?
John shared his excitement about his coming trip, firstly to South Africa, Durban and then on to London, Canada where he would meet his brother David and his wife Emily, they moved to Canada having had visa problems in the US. This time last year I was advising him to go home as soon as he could get time off work, his dad was dying with cancer, he wasn’t a young man and it was expected that he would depart this world at any time. John made it in time to see him just before his dad sailed to Sheol. Parentally John only has a step mother now and none of his near family lives within 130 miles. John’s real mother died giving birth to him and his twin brother, Evan. It was good he made it in time, timing is everything in this life, well, almost everything. John and I have met nearly every Tuesday over the past twelve years, we met at Art College but at the end of his final year he had a breakdown. I think our weekly meeting was a good constant for him and leisure for us both. We watched movies if we didn’t sample coffees a subject of mutual appreciation. The best times were when we gave our little unofficial reviews about the recent movies we had watched.