“Coffee Shops”

Here’s a weird bit of information. When you publish short stories on your own personal website, it often voids the chances of said story to be published in a literary magazine. Most of them require submission of stories that have never been published anywhere before. But I just love some of the short stories I’ve written and I want to share them.

This is one I wrote for a short story contest held here in my little corner of the world where the theme was Fuel. Well, when I think of fuel, the one thing that always comes to my mind is my love for coffee. It truly fuels me!

Coffee Shops
by Nicole Sharp

The setting sun paints the sky like an 80’s album cover, streaks of purple, yellow, orange and pinks mingle with the clouds. It’s warming up, at least that’s the general consensus from the overheard voices.

I’m organized in my favorite position: laptop open on a blue table, cappuccino to the right of my writing device, big window beside me for day dreaming; all of this set up in my favorite popular coffee shop. It isn’t that the shop sells the best coffee in town; it’s the eclectic, inclusivity, and retro décor that hasn’t changed that makes this place prevalent.

I rush to coffee shops to write, to hide from the mess of my apartment and the suction of the television. I’ve been sitting in coffee shops for years now, before it was a thing to do. Before the Friends were doing it, or maybe while they were doing it, but it certainly wasn’t because they were doing it.

I’ve watched life pass in coffee trends. It’s the stimuli of the caffeine and the over heard voices that turn me on, crank the wheels of my imagination into motion.

There is no jazz today, they’re pumping Reggae through the speakers. It gently grates on my nerves, but not enough to force me to leave.

A couple outside may be breaking up. I watch them out of the corner of my eye. She is crying, trying to hide it. He is leaning across the table, his hands open, palms up, his mouth moving desperately with words I can’t hear. But even from here I wonder if it isn’t all bullshit. I also wonder why they – he – didn’t pick up a more private place for this. She takes a cigarette from her purse and I watch as her hands shake to light it.

My attention is stolen by the loud, high pitched screech of a young High school girl rushing through the door, being reunited with a friend she hasn’t seen in “forever!” How long is forever to a teen these days?

I take a sip of my cappuccino and think about my life; Cummings measured his in coffee spoons, I suppose I measure mine by the evolution of my drink choice. It’s been reformed dramatically from when I was a teenager. I started with blended iced mochas, complete with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles delicately presented in a dome covered cup. Then it was caramel mochas, in my latest trendiest To-Go cup. The last years of college it was Maxwell House with too much creamer that reflected my financial struggles. And then, I went to Italy. It’s been a dependent love affair with the cappuccino ever since.

The cup at my elbow is the entrance fee I pay to sit at this table; $3.50 allows me to intrude in this modern day piazza for a few hours.

The misunderstood group behind me on the sofas have raised their voices once again. The hipsters have taken the place of the pseudo intellectuals clad in brooding blackness from the late nineties. Although, there will always be a group of youth desperately attempting to be heard, to philosophize their moot points, to wave their arms in wonder in places like this. And I hope that’s true. There is a comfort in that. How many coffee shops became the birth place of movements? Be it artistic or political? Be it a Lost Generation, Beatniks, Bohemians, Grunge, Goth, or Emo; there is always a group of people looking for their tribal voice.

Of course, the writer in me wants to expose the humanity of the arm wavers. Follow them home, any generation of them, and find them in thread bear sweats, microwaving a Lean Cuisine, rushing to sit in front of the glowing blue static of prime time. I don’t think it’s a commentary on intellectuals, just insight into the voyeur of the writer.

I like to think a coffee shop isn’t a coffee shop without opinionated modern day wannabe bohemian intellectuals. I’m a wannabe bohemian intellectual. I own it. Only, I don’t look the part. I bathe in pastels and my rounded happiness, doesn’t quite fit.

There is an ebb and flow of life here. The constant is a coffee bean, the people and time of day create the microcosm of life within that bean.

A group in business attire sit down at a large round table. They’re waiting for rush hour traffic to thin out. They still talk about the work that needs to get done, but one of the women shifts the conversation. She’s done working for the day.

In Italy, after 5 pm, the café, once ripe with pastries and barista, morphs into a bar.  A line up of appetizers, olives, small prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches, Parmesan crusted crostini, and other accouterments are laid out. People have a cocktail before dinner. If they come to the bar after dinner, they have espresso with shots of their favorite liquor added.

Another man behind me is talking loudly on his phone again. I didn’t get a look at him before he sat down, just heard him order of a double shot of espresso. He’s begun a cell phone quest, talk to text that is. It sounds like he’s going through his entire address book, declaring to each recipient that he’s been working hard and he’s sorry he hasn’t been around, but now he’s got some free time and they should come hang with him. Only problem is that he never gives his location. His voice is laced with insecure need. He’s just like the rest of us, doing time in coffee shops in the hopes of being seen, heard, understood.

One of the locals nods at me as he sits down with his bag of books and computer. There are many local faces I recognize, some nod in my direction when we make eye contact, others are content to look through me. I’ve added them to my stories over the years, pilfered the books they’ve been reading, and adapted their overheard conversations when intrigued. They don’t have names, these strangers, I define them by the drinks they order, but then again, I think perhaps we’re all defined a bit by the coffee we order.

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