There it was again–the smell of his cologne–a subtle blend of citrus notes with a mild woody undertone. He had just walked by. His light footsteps drowned by the chatters of the afternoon crowd. If only it wasn’t routinely busy at the hour of his arrival, I could, possibly, point him out. Alas, such was rarely a case in this joint.
Just like me, he frequented the cafe every Saturday. But while I clocked-in in the morning, he visited only by noon. I speculated he enjoyed the midday set meals. My favourite waitress once told me that their lunch sets were very affordable in this expensive city. So perhaps I would give them a try one day. But as for now, I preferred my regular order of plain banana pancake with a side of freshly brewed black coffee–those two made great companions to whatever book I was reading. They were all I needed, until he appeared.
That Saturday, I was pages away from completing The Magnet & The Mouse when I caught his scent. I was drawing close to the conclusion of the acclaimed philosophical book–how the mouse found its magnet after the thunderstorm–but loss all concentration when he walked by. I’m not one to be easily distracted. The noise in the cafe never once bothered me–my focus never disturbed by the yapping children, boisterous students, hollers from the kitchen, and hissing of the coffee machine. The smells of this establishment had not once drew my attention elsewhere–not the homely waft of fresh waffles, and certainly not the deep, soul-pleasing aroma of a dark brew. But, he was different.
What was it about his cologne that stole my senses? Why was his light, almost indistinguishable footsteps so aurally pleasing? I’ve never seen his face nor heard his voice, but I’ve yet to fail at sensing his movement–his presence. Oh, how I wish I knew more about him. The strange desire to speak to him–to learn about his past, present, and future–could not be shaken.
“Is this seat taken?”
There it was again–the smell of his cologne now stronger–as though he was the one who spoke. Then, there were those familiar footsteps as he moved to stand before me.
“No,” I replied, gesturing for him to take a seat.
Was the cafe busier than usual that he had to share my table? Or, did he notice me like I noticed him?
“Good book?” he asked.
“I’ve yet to finish.”
“What’s it about?”
I briefly contemplated about sharing the whole incoherent plot, but settled with, “Life. It’s about life.”
“Life,” he echoed.
“Sounds boring, I know.”
“No, it actually sounds interesting. What is life like for you?”
What is life like for me? Life was once bright, colourful, and beautiful. Then life became dark, lonely, and disconcerting. I didn’t know what to expect the moment I rose from my bed. I could no longer predict what would happen, or avoid–what was once avoidable–misfortunes. I was lost. I had to try harder at discerning the world around me. That was life.
“Ordinary,” I replied. “What is life like for you?”
“Scary,” he said. “How do you make life ordinary?”
I didn’t. I wasn’t. I lied. “I adapt.”
“Do you believe life can be exciting?”
I hoped–I wasn’t reading The Magnet & The Mouse because I enjoyed philosophy.
“Yes,” I said.
“You see, I-” he abruptly halted. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be insensitive.”
“Words are just words. What do I see?” I prompted.
“You see,” he continued. “I’ve been noticing you for awhile now, and I’ve been wondering how you do it.”
“How I do what?”
“How do you smile and laugh without a care in the world? How do you pardon the intrusive nature of your surroundings? How do you enjoy just that–a pancake and a coffee?”
“I read good books,” I replied with a chuckle.
“I thought so too, but there’s more than that. And I want to know what it is.”
I didn’t know what he was talking about. There wasn’t anything more. “Honestly, I just read really entertaining and engaging books.”
“Or, you just don’t realise how un-ordinary your life is.”
Yes, my life was indeed un-ordinary but in the bad kind of way. Did I miss the memo on how my life should be? Was my current predicament a celebration?
“I know I sound rude,” he added. “It’s just… I find hope in you.” I must have wore bewilderment, as he continued, “I… well… I’ve been told I won’t be able to see for very much longer. So with the days counting down, I’ve chosen to look at what gives me hope. And, you’re one of them–hope.”
“Honestly, I don’t come here for the food. I actually come here for you–the stranger with the book, coffee, and pancake.” He chuckled.
“I… didn’t know I made an impression.”
“Well, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean you don’t.”
I never thought that me being me could ever make a difference in someone’s life. How could someone so broken be a bringer of hope? Was I truly capable despite my disabilities?
“Thank you,” he added. “I truly hope, that one day, you’ll see what everyone else sees in you.”
Me too. “I hope so too.”
Cologne, magnet, and banana were words given by Wei Keat on Facebook–I never knew one could actually bring these words together in a story until I actually tried. And boy, was I surprised at what came out of them.
Now, it’s your turn! Write a story of your own with the three words given. And, if you’d like to throw a challenge my way, leave your 3 words in the comment section below! To be honest, I’ve almost used up all the past comments, so your 3 words will help keep this streak alive.
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3 Words, 1 Story © 2018 by Jeyna Grace. All rights reserved.
(Click HERE for a list of stories in this writing challenge.)