As I turned the corner to get my morning java fix, I saw a well dressed man of a certain age heading in my direction. Pressed jeans, collared shirt, and a clean pair of brown leather shoes–no scuffs. He and I both slowed seeing our shared destination, and I deferred to him as he led us through the door. He scooped up the last remaining table for two, and I strode straight into the small but substantial line, he to follow up behind me in a few.
I ordered my latte strong (to go), and he ordered his with small talk (to stay). It mattered not that the barista was in no mood; This Man of a certain age was here to talk, and talk he would. I stood aside and quietly waited for my morning salvation. He stood square in front of the sullen barista, and continued on with his talk.
“Pretty busy today, huh?”
“No, not really.”
“Oh,” says the man, with a gentle look down at the shuffle of his feet. “I guess I”m later than usual.”
[clears throat] “Did you walk here?”
“Yep. I sure did,” The Man said with eagerness. “I sure did walk here.”
“You on your way to work?”
“Me? Oh, no no. I don’t work. I’m just a caretaker for one cat. Just one cat and a garden. And a car. I take care of a cat, a garden, and a car.”
Silence and another look to the ground to see what his feet would do, and there was nothing more. The Man took his latte for here and sat by himself over there. No paper, no book. Nothing to distract him from the company that hadn’t come. Just another man who takes care of a cat, a car, and a garden sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco.
Just one person waiting at a table for two.