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  • Writer's pictureEphemeral

Coffee Shop

"One cappuccino, please. With a couple of pumps of hazelnut syrup, but please don't make it too sweet?"

"Wow. That's literally one of my favourites," I say, eyebrows slightly raised with amusement. "Please have a seat, I'll be right there with your order."

The brown-haired woman smiles softly and heads to a table at the corner of the shop, shuffling the sheets of paper in her hand, as if looking for a particular one among them. On reaching there, she stands looking from one chair to the other across the table for a moment, and then after what seems like careful consideration, places her bag on one of them and sits on the other.

As I press the grounds into the portafilter, I reminisce about the times in my twenties, when I would indulge in an early morning coffee, or take a break from work for a mid-day trip to the nearby coffee shop. Particularly closer to noon, I would see a lot of people, maybe freelancers, looking into their laptops, their headphones or earbuds in, occasionally speaking in a meeting, but mostly engrossed in what looked like work.

I would often contemplate, looking at them, how coffee shops got associated with creativity, productivity and focus. Was it because of their representation in literature, films, and pop culture, as spaces where one could go to work, especially write, in an ambience of white noise, coffeehouse jazz, and contagious productivity from others? Or was it the various exciting fragrances pervading the air, and the periodic sips of a liquid stimulant, that, quite straightforwardly, helped with focus, and made coffee shops the natural place for enterprising youth to flock to? I tried thinking of other places that attracted a similar crowd, and the closest thing I could think of was a library; a duller version of the coffee shop, without the faint background chitchat and music, and without the much needed intermittent refreshment - a place that invited more academics and lesser business. Sometimes, I would wonder if people working at coffee shops were actually working, unless, of course, they were the baristas and the servers (those lot mostly seemed to proceed about their day at full throttle). I would try myself as a part of the crowd with the laptops, but something about mixing coffee with work seemed a little too extravagant for my taste.

By now, I have started lacing the espresso and milk with a thick foam, the toasty aroma of hazelnut slowly seeping into the air. I place the cup carefully into a tray, with a napkin, a couple of sugar pouches, and a wooden stirrer. Picking it up, I amble towards the table where the woman is sitting, now looking out the window at plants swaying cheerily in the wind. The sheets in her hand are neatly stacked at the side of the table, undisturbed.

"Here you go. Would you like anything else?"

"No, thank you so much," she responds, as softly as she smiles.

I give her a nod and start walking back to my place behind the counter, when she remarks, "I really like this place." I turn around and smile at her. "Do you visit often?" I ask politely. "Yes, once every few days, since it opened up, I think three months ago," she rolls her eyes up, as if to do the math in her head, then brings them back to meet mine. "I mostly visit around mid-day though, which is probably why I have never seen you before," she continues, taking a sip from her cup. "Mm, this is good!"

"Yes, I am mostly here early in the morning. I let my employees handle the shop during the later parts of the morning and the rest of the day, because they're much much better at the job than I am. I could never survive the peak hours!" "Oh, so do you own the place? It's really good!" "Yes, along with my husband, and, I appreciate the feedback. Do keep visiting," I respond affably.

I wait for a couple of seconds before turning back and leaving her to the now comfortably warm coffee. Back in my cozy chair, I pick up my journal and start scribbling ramblings in it. My eyes drift to the couch inside the kitchen and I see a faint smile on your sleeping your face, like a small drop of morning dew on a leaf. I can tell that you're in a sweet dream, just as I am. Tucking loose hair behind my ear, I get back to writing, soft coffeehouse jazz playing in the background.

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