Conversations In a Cafe

Illustrated by Nnamdi Udoka

Each key he punched on the grand piano emitted a resonating gong and the echo in the cafe only aided its resonance. Such an atmosphere could inspire John Legend to belt out about a dozen sultry ballads in a stretch. From all indications, however, that was not going to be the case for this John; perhaps, because his surname isn’t Legend. He could barely concentrate. Maybe the icy breeze of the snowfall outside the cozy cafe could have successfully convinced his overzealous sweat pores to stop leaking. The DJ had promised a dazzling performance by ‘an African genius’ so everyone in the cafe froze, eyes glued to him in anticipation. Much to their disappointment, though, seated naively under the spotlight was John, an amateur African musician in his early 20s palpitating heavily while fidgeting with a grand piano. No, he wasn’t completely clueless. In fact he couldn’t have been more prepared; he had written a ballad and rehearsed a couple of nights for this performance.
 While the audience began to boo at this ‘jerk’ on stage, Rita’s heart was swelling in admiration of a cute, talented Black dude who is simply having a bad day. “OMG! Who did this to him? What went wrong?” Questions of that sort dominated Rita’s already fascinated mind. Perhaps she would have reacted differently had she known that John had almost made a nuisance of himself nagging the DJ for a chance to perform in the cafe.

In an attempt to save the day and perhaps get to meet this “fresh new guy”, Waiter Rita headed for the spotlight. ‘Would you like something to drink?’ she whispered to his ear with her right hand gently holding down his fingers on the keys of the grand piano terminating the seemingly endless random stream of gongs, while giving him a pat on the back with her left hand. He sighed in relief, wishing he could freeze the moment; it was just too romantic to pass in a hurry. Right away, he began admiring how her tender Caucasian fingers and his own coarse Black ones gracefully juxtaposed. ‘Um co… coffee’, he managed to stutter hoping to use the early ‘coffee break’ to diffuse the attention of the booing, concert hungry audience and thus pull himself together. 
 Good for him, though, the frustrated audience gradually resumed their activities; sipping, smoking, snookering, betting, arguing and the like. To them, such scenes replay all too often. “Just another lad who believes he is a whiz kid” they may have concluded. On his part, John who had come so close to his dreams that he could hardly feel any shame gazed longingly, mouth ajar, as pony-tailed Rita cat walked across the cafe in a brilliant lemon turtleneck on black leggings, until his view was obstructed. “It has been accomplished” he soliloquized, suppressing a silly smile. 
 Before long Rita emerged with a coy smile and a cup of hot coffee. He acknowledged her smile, took a sip and, placing the cup on the piano, he proposed “I will start afresh” betraying a raw African accent.

“You know what…?” gently releasing the piano lid prop, “I think that maybe tonight isn’t exactly a music night for you…” She closed the piano lid and continued “…maybe you should let the DJ do his job for you to enjoy while you sit and nurse your coffee”. Then sustaining the coy smile, she leaned forward, resting her elbows on the piano lid and after establishing eye contact, teased “how about that?” By that time, John, completely mesmerized by her sparkling blue eyes, stretched out his right hand aiming her left shoulder but could not reach before Rita stood up erect. So grabbing his cup of coffee instead, he jumped up and proposed “I think that maybe you should grab a cup of coffee too and join me” leading her off the spotlight while the obviously disappointed DJ resumed work, introducing Adele’s ‘Hello’. 
 As they negotiated their way within the dimly lit cafe in search of a free table, John was overjoyed. Performing at Rita’s father’s cafe was only a means to an end. He has been dying to have a chat with this charming beauty ever since he arrived in the neighborhood a month ago, but it appears she was so engrossed in her work at the cafe and her passion for music that she could barely notice any of his numerous, amorous antics. She was the coolest English speaking girl around. Elegant, smart, gorgeous, stunning, gifted, adorable… in fact, his list of adjectives was endless. The pressure was mounting. Especially when he recalls that each passing day brings him closer to the end of his two month vacation in Montreal.

Although his international debut had just been ruined by some petrifying stage fright, John was completely unperturbed since the idea wasn’t to attract a Grammy nomination; only Rita’s attention which it undoubtedly did.

So seated face to face at a table with two cups of hot coffee vaporizing in between them, “I can explain…” smiley John began what would evolve into series of ‪#‎conversationsInACafe.

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