“Hey,” Mark said, giving a quick wave to an older man seated at a table inside the café. The older man waved back at him, and looked like he was about to stand. “I’m just gonna grab a drink.” Mark went up to the counter to place his order. “I’ll have an iced coffee with caramel.” He shifted awkwardly on his feet.
The older man took a deep breath in, at once amused but feeling a hint of melancholy at the familiar order. He cleared his throat and tried to distract himself with his phone.
“Hey,” Mark said, drink in hand as he slid into a chair at the man’s table. He took a wary sip from his drink.
“Hey Mark,” the man said, sounding confident. “It’s been a while. You’re looking good, a lot older now.”
Mark nodded and kind of laughed. “Yeah, I mean … yeah. It’s been a while.” He took a quick glance at the older man to gauge his response, then looked back down at his drink as he twirled the plastic cup in his hands.
“Yeah, it has.” The man leaned back in his chair, crossing his arms in front of his chest, then clearing his throat. “So you’re in school now, I heard.”
“Yep, yep. Been going for a couple years now.”
“You’re almost done, then.”
“I graduate in May.”
“Wow, that’s great. Great job. You must be really excited. Probably can’t wait to get started.”
“I’m super stoked, my dad …” he cleared his throat and shifted in his chair. “My dad put in a good word for me at his buddy’s shop. It’s actually not too far from here. ‘Sposed to start in a couple weeks. They’re gonna train me after school.”
“That’s great, Mark! Really happy for you. You put in a lot of work to graduate. You’ve really earned it. Congrats.” His arms were still crossed in front of him. He was silent for a bit, looking out at the street through the large plate glass window. “Yeah I should take my car in one of these days,” he said with a chuckle. “It could really use a tune-up.”
“Hey, any time. Any time. You have my email.”
“Yeah, you should really bring it by, I’ll give you a free one.”
“Great Mark, I will.” The man uncrossed his arms and tapped his hand nervously on the table.
“Well …” Mark took a long drink. “I better get going. I got some … some stuff to …”
“Yeah, cool. Hey, it was great seeing you again. Hopefully we can do this again some time.” The man was interrupted by the scraping sound of Mark’s chair as he stood up. “Some time soon,” he continued.
“That sounds great, just message me,” Mark said, already standing at the door to the café.
“Okay. Take care, Mark.”
“Thanks, you too …” he paused, not quite knowing what to call him. He stayed silent, giving a quick sheepish smile instead, then ducking out the door.
The man watched Mark leave and walk down the street. When he was no longer in view, the man stared down into his iced coffee with caramel. He smiled silently in thought, then shook his head. He finished his drink and dumped it in the trash before heading out the door himself.