The Polaroid camera slipped out a film and as the image of my smiling face slowly appeared, my favourite waitress scribbled down ’37 seconds’ at the white space.
“Would you like to do it?” she asked.
Nodding my head, I took the picture and headed to a corkboard on the cafe wall.
“Hello, stranger,” I said out loud, as I reached for the picture already pinned on the board.
This young man, flexing his muscle with a doughnut in his hand, had previously pinned his picture thinking he was the new doughnut king in the joint. If only he knew the crown was no longer his.
Handing the picture of this stranger to the waitress, I secured mine on the board and beamed proudly. Yes, it may seem silly to be proud of such a small accomplishment, but I dare say it is an impressive one. I can down five doughnuts at top speed and everyone month I make sure to secure my throne. No competitor has taken my spot for the last ten months, and I deserve an applause for that.
After reclaiming my throne, I headed to my day job at a coffee house. I was working as a cashier while looking for a proper job that matched the degree I had. It was not the best job in the world, but it provided for my meals. And that afternoon, my friends decided to drop by and have lunch with me.
The round table of three people was accompanied with lattes and sandwiches. Not the typical meal for me, but nothing about that lunch was typical to begin with. It had been a year since I last saw my friends as they were studying and working across borders, and having them over had become a strange experience.
Thinking of them and the stranger that attempted to dethrone me, I skipped the ‘how are you’ and went straight to the oddest question I had in mind.
“Have you ever wondered what Hugh Jackman is doing right now?” I asked.
One of my friends looked at me, shook her head, and said, “Still fangirl-ing over him?”
I rolled my eyes and replied, “Have YOU ever wondered what Ed Sheeran is doing right now?”
“I’m done with him,” she said.
“That’s not the right answer.”
“It’s a strange question, but no. Now that you asked though, I’m beginning to wonder.”
My other friend chuckled and joined in. “I know what Woo Bin is doing right now. He’s probably on set shooting his latest drama.” She ended her sentence with the widest smile and I could not help but laugh.
“On a first name basis already?” I asked.
She hid her blush by downing a big gulp of her latte before asking, “Why the odd question though?”
I simply shrugged in reply.
I honestly had no reason for that question, it just fell on my lap and I had to bring it up. It was then that I started to wonder what my father was doing at that very moment; he was probably at lunch with his colleagues. And then my mother came to mind; most likely trying to reach my brother over the phone. Without having to try, I ended up wondering what my brother was doing; hopefully he was in class listening to a boring lecture.
Even though I did not intend to continue floating through the thoughts in my head, I ended up doing so. It took me a lot of effort to stop wondering about Hugh Jackman working out at the gym, but I eventually managed to focus on the two girls in front of me. When my ears were finally on their stories, I left the wondering behind.
After lunch, I made my friends promise me a dinner date before bidding them farewell. The day then carried on as usual, with customers making special orders, complaining about their coffee, and leaving generous tips. By the end of my shift, I was ready to clean up and go home. But just before I left, I decided to take one more customer.
“Hello, stranger,” the customer greeted.
“Hello! Having here or takeaway?” I asked.
“Takeaway,” he replied.
“What would you like to have?”
“A regular cappuccino, single shot.”
I typed in his order, gave him a smile and waited for him as he took out some cash from his wallet. As he passed me the bill, he asked, “Have I seen you before?”
Giving him a small smile, I shook my head. After all, how would I know if he has seen me before? As he didn’t press further, I waited silently as my colleague made his coffee. When it was finally done, I handed it to him and at that moment I took a good look at him.
“Have I seen YOU before?” I asked, before I could think it through.
He laughed and a thoughtful expression spread across his face. The two of us stood there for a moment trying to recall where we last saw each other and at the very same time, we blurted out, “John’s Doughnut House!”
“You tried to dethrone me!” I immediately continued.
“I did it again,” he replied with a smirk.
I was shocked but I was not backing down. “Ha! Not for long.”
“We’ll see. I was wondering who you were,” he said with a smile.
“Wonder no more,” I replied as I folded my arms coolly.
As soon as those words escaped my lips, they bounced right back at me and hit me hard. Why was I wondering what people were doing when I could just ask them? It was so strange of me to prefer one action I had no answers to, instead of another action that gave me what I needed. If connecting with a stranger was so easy, there was no difficulty connecting with someone I know.
That day, I went home with the phone number of a new friend and a revelation that the world is small simply because of human connection.
We live in a world where we are surrounded by technology, and recently there has been a lot of talk about how technology has handicapped our ability to build relationships. This story is not about that. This story is about human connection and how we all have the ability to connect with someone without even trying. It is in our nature to do so. Technology did not make the world smaller, it simply showed us how small our world is. To have a world without boundaries, we simply have to connect with one another.
Yes, we might still be left wondering what our favourite celebrities are doing at this moment, but we don’t have to wonder when it comes to our family and friends. Give them a call or meet up for lunch; stop wondering and start connecting!
As always, let me know what you think of this story in the comments below 🙂 I have never written such a simple, plotless story before, hence this is a test to see if I can write well without a proper story arc. So please connect with me and give me your thoughts!
© 2014 Jeyna Grace
(For more short stories, click HERE)