I was sitting in a corner of the café, as I always did. It was a routine that I loved. Go to the same café every Sunday afternoon, sit in the same corner, sip some of the same coffee blend and brood for hours.
It was the only time in the week that I shut down all thoughts of work from my mind. Instead, this was the time I let the streams of consciousness in my mind, that I’d suppressed all week, run amok. It was refreshing and gave me some ideas for my next story!
As you’d expect, I hated my routine being thrown into disarray. I hated it when strangers tried to interrupt my brooding time in the café. Sadly, it happened more often than I wanted to. The perils of being a beautiful woman sitting alone in a group hangout place, I guess. I’d usually shut down any conversations by saying, “Sorry, I need some alone time right now. Please don’t mind.”
The good ones would be a sport and move on. The obnoxious ones were taken care of by the owner of the café — a guy named Azhar who was built like a tank and was very sweet.
I’d met Azhar during my first visit here. He’d noticed that I was sitting in a corner for hours, just sipping coffee, and come up to ask if I was okay. While others would use this as a pickup line, he was so honest and straight about trying to help that we became friends very quickly. Since then, every time I came to the café, we would chat for a few minutes before I started my routine.
Today though, Azhar was not at work and I didn’t know the girl sitting at the billing counter where he was usually stationed. I tried asking her about him but either she didn’t understand me or it was something else, because she replied that she was the one ‘in charge’ today in a blunt manner. I just walked over to my regular table in the corner and after ordering some coffee, proceeded to brood.
An hour or so later, a guy walked towards my corner table, staring at me non-stop, and sat down in the table right next to me. “What a creep!” I thought to myself, not letting on that I’d noticed him checking me out. I tried to ignore him but he’d keep glancing at me every few minutes, his lips moving as if he was about to say something and then, he’d go back to looking at the menu.
Fed up after fifteen minutes of the same thing, I snapped at him, “What do you want?”
“Oh! Sorry! You just look familiar…”
“Do I? Really?” Come on! That was such a lame line!
“Ummm… Are you the lady that writes the “PigTales” series on Medium? I think the writer’s username is Aarti K.”
I was surprised. You don’t expect people to recognize you from your work on Medium of all things, especially when you have so few followers on Medium. I had been writing for weeks now, with no real audience in mind. The fact that he read my work thawed my anger at him a little. He was still being a little creepy though, staring at me like that!
“Yes. I am the same Aarti Kapoor. So, you read my serial fiction stories?”
“Read? I love them! They are honest stories and the language is so refreshing! I read a lot of fiction, so it’s great to see someone writing about everyday life in such a matter-of-fact way. You don’t use flowery language at all, so it’s even better!”
“Wow! That’s way too many compliments for my amateur attempts at writing!”
“Oh? Sorry then, I like your stories. They are realistic and always leave me wanting for more.”
“Thanks! I’m publishing one tomorrow. Have fun reading it.”
“Cool! I’ll look forward to it!”
“Okay, sorry to say this but I need some alone time. This is where I usually sit and come up with my story ideas. Please don’t mind.”
“Okay, okay, no problem. I’ll leave you to it then. Thanks for making my day. I saw you when I entered the cafe and was wondering if you were the writer I follow on Medium. I’m Bhuvan, by the way. Have a good day!”
He moved away without a backward glance, going to a table at the other end of the café. A table that was already occupied by two other guys that’d been sneaking glances at us for the past few minutes.
He just took the third chair and started chatting with them. “So, he’d left his mates to come and talk to me? Hmmm… Not a creep then.” I thought to myself and, just to double-check, checked my list of followers on Medium and found a ‘Bhuvan Mishra’ on it.
A little curious, I checked his Medium profile. Wow! He was a tech startup founder and he’d written some articles on the startup scene in India. I went through one of the articles titled ‘Why is India’s startup scene so disorganized?’ He wrote well, articulating each point and I found myself agreeing with his findings. Now, that’s the kind of people I’d love to have as readers. Intelligence is in short supply these days!
Having had enough of a detour, I decided to forget about the entire episode -except for the fact that I now knew one person in the world that read my stories with genuine interest. I didn’t want to forget that, it gave me some kind of satisfaction and made me happy!
I started dreaming up ideas for my other series of short stories, trying to fit them into the existing plot line, jotting them down on my notepad and crossing out a few that didn’t feel good. The barista came, placed my cup of coffee on the table and left without a word. I guess the regular staff had become used to my quirks. Lovely!
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