Café Drama

Drama has found its way to the café today. There’s a man who is here every morning: a tall and slender black man in his older years, unhealthy teeth but a healthy smile. He holds a book and a pack of L&M cigarettes. He props up his phone and laughs often. I can tell he’s a gentle soul. He looks at the world with a child-like gaze, but I know he’s seen a lot. An observer easily recognizes another.

A younger man with odd energy sits to the table beside him. He’s got a flat-billed cap, chubby face and collared shirt. Restless in the chair, it looks like he’s struggling to simply be. A minute passes, and I hear a third man pose a question to the elder. “Do you know him?” he asks, pointing to the younger man. There’s a pause… the three of them all look at each other, and I look up at the three of them. Something’s going on.

“Do you know him?” repeats the third man. He’s got broad shoulders and a healthy demeaner, as he chews his gum up and down. He seems to be in his late 20’s, and clearly the most confident person in the room. The old man shakes his head, “no.”

“Why did you take his cigarettes?” asks the third man. The odd soul begins to fumble around. He’s looking here and there, reaching in his pack and pulling his hand back out, concocting a response but not making much sense. He says something about the cigarettes having his mother’s initials, and he has to take them when he sees them in public. The third man looks on with a confused gaze. The old man looks on with a confused gaze. I look on with a confused gaze. Time stops for a moment, and the odd man wrestles with himself. I’m sure that moment felt like an eternity to him.

He fumbles a bit more, as the third man still looks him up and down. Finally, the odd man reaches in his pack and throws the cigarettes back on the table. “Sorry, it’s not about you, it’s the cigarettes.” The confusion only grows in the room. I’m not the only one watching anymore. The peace has been disturbed, and we’re all on alert. Chaos has entered the building, and nobody is sure what to do.

The old man, still smiling, looks at the thief and asks him for an explanation. The thief can’t seem to give him one, and only looks away in shame. He stands up and walks away, to return again. He sits and wrestles with himself, and walks away again. He does this over and over, never stopping in his chair for more than 30 seconds. Eventually, he scrambles together his belongings and leaves.

The old man follows him outside, but comes right back. The room feels lighter, now. I make eye contact with the old man and we shake heads at each other. The third man seems to have forgotten the encounter altogether.

Jason Brendel
Jason Brendel

Jason Brendel is an author, poet, and comedian from Northern California. Navigate the buttons below to follow him on social media, make a donation, or purchase his collection of laugh-out-loud poetry on Amazon.

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