“Another coffee.” It wasn’t a question, but rather a resigned recognition that broke the silent bubble around the writer. The statement wasn’t dignified with a verbal response - the writer slid the empty coffee cup toward the server with a brush of the back of his hand. As the server picked up the cup, the writer joined his pen to paper with a well-practiced economy of movement.
A few lines flowed forth before the bubble burst again.
“Nice handwriting!” The writer had been pricked with this pin far too many times to take it as a compliment - it was code for “I don’t ever see people writing in public and your handwriting is better than mine. I also want to have a short awkward conversation because I’m obviously on my way somewhere or else I wouldn’t have passed by you.” The writer knew his handwriting was decent enough, but that soliciting a reaction beyond “I suppose it’s legible” from any forum dedicated to the art was out of his league.
“Thanks, I practice.” A diplomatic response that usually worked. It was in the same vein which dictated the response to “Oh, you can change your own tire?” shouldn’t be “go away, I’m trying to fix my car” but rather “yes, my father taught me.” Normally a polite moment would pass and the admirer would continue along their journey, buoyed by the thought they’ve made someone’s day.
“Well, it’s way better than I could ever do!”
A moment or two more passed as these few words lingered, accompanied by their issuer. Then the words faded, but the admirer stayed put. Drastic action was needed.
The writer looked up from his paper and set down his pen. Swiveling slightly on the diner’s stool, he painted a smile on his face and looked directly at the admirer.
“It’s all a matter of practice - I had to reteach myself when I was in college because I couldn't read my notes.” No opening had been left and the response seemed personalized enough to soothe all but the most narcissistic egos. If all went well, the writer could get back to what had inspired the interaction.
“What are you writing?”
‘Words! Sentences! The best story you’ve ever read!’ The writer wanted to scream. ‘Nothing because you’re bugging me!’ Was his second impulse. As these emotions passed, he picked a third option.
“Just a little fiction today.” He paused. “That I’d like to get back to.”
A moment passed between the two. It might not have been an insult, but it was certainly a breach of etiquette.
A clink of porcelain on the counter drew the two sets of eyes.
The writer looked from his coffee to the admirer to the paper in front of himself. After a slight deliberation, he determine whatever inspiration had earlier possessed him had fled. He sighed.
“Could I get my check?”
The admirer pestered the writer with no further questions, but the damage had been done. Several gulps of warm coffee heralded the end of the cup and the end of the writer’s presence in the diner. He bid all adieu and made his way home, leaving the server and the admirer behind.
“That went well,” the admirer said to the server.
“Yeah, we may have broken even. I still think free refills are a bad idea.”
“Well, give me a call if someone else camps out on a stool in the future.” The admirer left his coffee and moved toward the kitchen.
“Will do, boss.”
I'm not dead! Just haven't written anything in weeks. Currently on the island of Langkawi. This was just an exercise to get my fingers moving again - I hope to get back to doing contests and community stuff soon!