The Homeless Man in the Coffee Shop

THE HOMELESS MAN IN THE COFFEE SHOP

I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing my book – well, editing it if truth be told (I may well be some time…)

I’m upstairs: there are plenty of indulgent, polished, leather sofas up here. The girl to my right is in her early 20s. She’s reading a book on ‘Corporate Strategy’ as the classical symphonies playing on auto-repeat reach their crescendo. Her navy blue suit jacket remains firmly in place whilst she brushes up on her Marketing Mantra and breaks chunks off a double-chocolate muffin.

The lady ahead of me has gone for the understated, intellectual look: expensive cashmere cardigan thrown over her Laura Ashley number, topped off with modern, dark-rimmed glasses which perch delicately at the end of her nose. She checks her Iphone: no call from Obama as yet this morning, but SHIT! She’s forgotten to ask the Nanny to take some corn-fed chicken out of the freezer for later. Oh well, another stop off at Waitrose it is then…

Two Corporate Suits are exchanging mind-boggling ideologies at a table nearby:

“So, what do you make of this new American strategy then?” the older one throws into the mix. The younger one looks perplexed, and shuffles his double-shot Americano around uncomfortably. He looks over at me, and I smile.

An older gentleman is settled over in the corner. I’d guess his was a grande full-fat mocha with all the trimmings, but the shovel of a spoon emerging from his bucket-size ceramic mug kind of gives that away. Maybe he missed breakfast.

I glance over towards the stairs and a man is on his way up. He’s walking towards me, and he’s clearly homeless. He stands out in here. There are plenty of chairs – loads of tables available too. It’s my idea of perfection in terms of bodies-to-tables ratio, in fact. I’m happy with my choice. He keeps walking towards my table. His skinny legs are drowning in filthy, sad jogging bottoms. His cheeks are utterly hollow and look to have literally caved in around the toothless cavity in his face. His skin is weathered, and the yellow stains on his fingers look like dip-dye.

I’m at a small, round table with two other empty chairs. He comes and sits in the chair opposite me, at my table. He’s gone for some high-calorie concoction with a shit load of cream dumped on the top, and chocolate sprinkles. I wonder how much it’s cost.

As he moves to sit down, the faces look over. Corporate Suits break off from their conversation about American Policy; Cashmere Knit interrupts her text to the Nanny and peers up over her half-glasses; the older man in the corner fleetingly breaks eye contact with his bowl and spoon. They all look as if to say, “Look at that! The homeless man is going to go and sit with that lady over there on her Macbook Pro”

I look at them all, and I wonder to myself “What do you expect me to do now? Get up and move tables? Extract myself from the ludicrous possibility of sharing a table with a homeless man? Guffaw and huff as I’m ‘inconvenienced’ into moving half a metre to another, more suitable place to sit?” I wonder what they would do, and I see the answer in all of their faces.

I ease back in my comfy, polished brown leather chair, and I begin to write. The homeless man sits quietly opposite me and slowly begins to sip his small mug of whipped cream. The glaring eyes look away: Nothing to see here – move on.

He gets out his baccy and prepares a roll-up. After a few minutes, the whipped-cream drink has gone, and he’s on his way. He’s shortly followed by the Corporate Suits.

I wonder where he’s going. I wonder what the others thought when I stayed in my seat.

As the classical symphonies continue to play, I take another swig of my grande, skinny, extra-hot cappuccino.

I’m glad I stayed in my seat.

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