*This is a short story I wrote in my very first creative writing class. Fall of 2014
Sam was a quiet man, keeping to himself at the corner coffee shop. He arrived every day at promptly 6:55 am. Not too early and not too late. The coffee shop opened at 5 am. Some mornings he would have to wait unit 5:15 am, on others, 5:30 am. He did not mind. He would smell the morning air and witness NYC coming alive. Watching the sun rise and the steam billow through the streets manholes up into the dark skies, creating clouds made by humans. Which really if you think about it, from Sam’s point of view, are still clouds made by nature. His reasoning being that humans are made by and born from nature, and therefore it was indeed nature creating them. Even in the month of June, a morning in an NYC side street brings the fog of autumn. He would watch this, and he would smile, just as he always greeted the opening workers with a smile. No matter how tardy they were, he always turned them around with a joke or a big tip. He knew all the workers by name, especially Clare. Clare was his favorite. Sam showed up at this coffee shop every day, from the age of sixty-nine to his final visiting age of ninety-six. As the years passed, all new employees began to know his name before he knew theirs. He always sat at the same table, the one facing the workers, not the busy outside street; this always brought up gossip and questioning from the staff.
“Why is he always alone, yet always smiling? It doesn’t make sense. Why wouldn’t he want to people watch and see all the life going on outside?”
Never did the staff want to ask him why. Since he had such a way about him, that made them enjoy their workday. No one dared to break that perfect silence with questioning.
So Sam sat. Day in, and day out, the same routine, over and over.
Some of the community began to look at him as a statue to gawk over or an equation to theorize, but most liked creating fable fantasies. Still, no one ever asked him why. No one ever took the time.
One particular summer morning was just like any other, except that Sam came into this coffee shop his final time. He waited just like he always did and greeted Clare as she opened, with a smile and the same joke about the human weather. The only difference this day was that, along with his tip, he left a letter with a post-it note attached to it. The post-it read-
“Please, Make sure no one opens this letter but Rose.”
Clare ran out after him to find the meaning of his letter. But she was too late. Sam was gone.
Two hours later, a young man entered this coffee shop, wide-eyed, brow furrowed and sweating. He was breathing so heavily as he burst through the doors, that he had to bend over and place his hands on his knees while he caught his breath. Clare noticed it was her old co-worker Justin. He was holding a letter crumpled in his fist. Clare noticed it was the same antique cerulean as the letter Sam had left behind. Intrigued, she rushed to help Justin to an open booth. Justin proceeded to tell her in an out of breath speech, that a woman named Rose had just passed away at their coffee shop across town, that she suddenly had a heart attack. She had been coming to their coffee shop for decades. Always sitting in the same place and always facing the workers just like he remembered Sam. When the ambulance came, he noticed the letter. Gasping Justin said, “I apologize, Clare, I just couldn’t resist, it all happened so fast! I took her letter and read it. Well… I just… Look for yourself Clare! You’re never going to believe this!”
Justin handed her the wrinkled letter that looked years old. He watched catching his breath as she read.
My Dearest Samuel,
I traveled all the way to NYC with nothing but the clothes on my back and the thought that I would be reunited with our family. I have sat in this coffee shop, day in and day out. You told me you would meet me here that our daughter worked here, and we would begin again. I am tired, I am weak, and I can no longer go on. I am writing this thinking someday you will receive this. This thought alone is letting me leave this world. The thought, which someday you or her will receive this letter. I have waited long enough. Today has to be the day I die, I can feel it. I am ready to meet on the other side now.
Clare looked up from the letter to meet Justin’s eyes. She realized he noticed the same antique cerulean envelope she was holding in her hands, matched the one sticking out of her apron. He looked at the letter and back to her. In that single glance, she knew Rose could no longer open the letter. Rose was gone now, and she knew in her gut that Sam was too. She was now held in her hands a few decades-long mystery. She felt no guilt as she tore open the letter. She slowed herself as she unfolded the page, and she read each word with the care she felt towards this stranger, whom she knew so little and yet so well.
My Dear Rose,
I have sat in this coffee shop day in and day out. I have watched our daughter grow from a young girl into a woman. She is going to college, acting on Broadway and has two beautiful children. I am weak, and I am tired. I have sat here thinking we would reunite and let our girl know that we never wanted to give her up. That we were just two young kids doing what we thought would be best for her, someday to become a family. My days of thinking this are gone along with my hope. The clock has run out. I leave this letter for you in the case you ever do show up. Your daughters name is now Clare. She is the bright-eyed, forever smiling blonde, who never wears a frown even when it rains. She is the smart one, who always makes sure that you order is just right, and gives out hugs from time to time to all the regulars. She is just that kind of woman. Clare might not have been raised by us, but she reminds so very much of us, every single day. When you finally come to this coffee shop, you won’t believe what you see in her, not even with your own eyes. Life is like that. It has a funny way of blinding us from all that is and what could be.
Clare dropped the letters and fell to her knees. She never imagined she would ever find her birth parents. Especially not like this.