Thursday, October 29, 2009

Of The Deepest Things in Life: Love, Happiness, and Coffee.

This is a story I wrote for an English paper. I really liked the way it turned out, and thought I would share it! Don't mind the underlined words, they were a requirement for the class. Also, don't mind the font changes. Word doesn't like copy & paste. :)

Let me know what you think!

In 1974 it was built, a coffee shop from the beginning. Its basement had been designed as a roasting floor, and the top level was a cafĂ©- not unlike those of today. It was a pioneer in this department; not many coffee shops existed then. It wasn’t until the mid-80’s that it gained what we would call “espresso” now. The building found itself in the hands of a new owner, and the shop found itself with a new name. People would come in, get their specialty coffee, stay and talk a while, then exit and continue on with their lives. The building saw life open up before it: friendships forming, breaking news being read, love blossoming in one corner of the room while it withered in the other. Dramatically, the coffee shop saw all this and more: the transformation of technology as newspapers turned into laptops and books turned into eReaders. The wooden seats gave way to couches. Years would pass. Like the people, the seasonal coffees would come and go. Newcomers would become regulars, young students would become middle aged people, and the store would pass from owner to owner. Employees came and went nearly as often as those buying coffee. The shop even found itself under a “Green Mermaid” for a time- which also passed. The sun rose and fell, and still the coffee shop remained. The aromatic stench of Arabica beans roasting greeted passerby’s nostrils each morning. Entering the building, one found themselves greeted not only by the smell, but by the sight: tan walls with brown crown molding, lights shining through butcher paper providing an affectionately peaceful glow, and baristas greeting them with warm smiles and warm brews.

This story revolves around the events of one day in the life of one such barista. This coffee shop which Mike works in, tells a thousand stories of life, love, passion, peace, conversation, and people. This is the climax of all these things in Mike’s life; all brought about because one girl walked into the shop on a sunny afternoon in October, not too long ago. Mike purposefully reached down and pushed the doors open. Since he should probably unlock them before attempting to apply any further force, he grabbed his keys, put them in the lock, and opened the door. Making his way across the dark room, he reached the light switch and flipped it. In their typical half hazard fashion, the dreary-dust-colored lights sprung to life. Mike shrugged the backpack he had been carrying off, as he grabbed it with his free hand, then violently threw it into the employee’s closet with unnecessary force. Reluctantly moving to his spot behind the counter, he started the typical morning activities.
After working so long in the coffee business, all five years he’d been in college, Mike had grown generally numb to the typical tasks of the day. Initially the job held awe and wonder for a fresh-out-of-high-school student. He had mastered the various parts of creating the perfect cup of black bean juice quick enough. It didn’t even take him that long to learn all the regular’s names and drinks. Yet, after so many years of doing the same thing, Mike was tired. Grabbing the house coffee thermos, he put it under the drip machine. Then, grabbing a filter, he slid out the hatch on the drip machine where he would insert the grinds. Throwing the filter into the contraption, he slid it under the coffee grinder, then turned the grind switch to the ‘on’ position. Crunched between their mighty slices, the blades immediately began to grrrriind the coffee beans. Mike stepped back and looked at the room. Same dusty colored walls, same old couches, same sticky counters. Click. The coffee stopped grinding. Mike grabbed the drip contraption and, sliding it from the coffee grinder, he inserted it back into the mighty drip machine. Grabbing a pitcher, he poured the right amount of water into the hatch which was located above the coffee grinds. The machine began brewing the coffee on its own accord; Mike waited for the first drips of the medium house blend, then moved the coffee thermos so that the drips fell into its depths. In this same manner, Mike went about preparing the shop in the tediously detailed ways only a barista can. Shari, his coworker for the day, showed up right before the first customer. Mike had never really liked people who ordered coffee. “Now don’t get me wrong,” he would say to his friends, “I love making coffee. It’s the people that kill me! They’re so snobbish and stuck up. It’s like being a limo driver- people don’t really want to see you, because they just want what you have to offer. On top of that, you get to drive around in a limo all day but never actually get to experience the limo. ”
As the first customer approached, Mike shot out a “Good morning! What can I get for ya?”
The man replied, “Uh, yeah hi. I’d like a quad Americano with about a half inch of cream and two Splenda.”
At this, Mike would normally respond with a Sure thing, but decided to switch it up a bit today. What’d he have to lose?
“Do you want me to throw a couple extra shots in that for ya, or will four do it?”
The man looked at Mike, rolled his eyes, and didn’t respond.
“Right, quad Americano coming up.”

After the man left, Mike checked his tip jar. Despite his antics, the guy had still tipped $.75. Not bad. Mike’s favorite was when some idiot would tip three cents after a perfectly normal interaction. Being a barista, Mike understood that the biggest insult wasn’t not tipping, it was tipping an incredibly low amount. Favorably for him, the man had avoided a sin which was unforgivable in most coffee circles. At least he wasn’t a complete moron.

Mike often described his life in shades of sepia. “How was your day?” People would ask him. “Oh, it was fine.” would be his response, without hesitation, and almost without fail. Although not completely in unrest, Mike was lukewarm. He was flimsy in regards to just about anything you can think of. His opinions were wet noodles. The only thing he knew for sure was that he liked making coffee. This shop, what with its bustle of senses made him feel like he had his life in order. All he had to do was down an espresso shot, and look around the room. The coffee, which was thick on his palette, reminded him of the unsuccessful pick up lines the guy in the back was using on the lady he sat next to. The smell of the coffee in the air mixing with assorted pastries smelled almost as good as that lady’s perfume who just walked by. The smooth middle of the shot on his central tongue was as solid as the man’s intellect in the corner; you could almost feel the paper between his fingers as he turned the page in the latest novel he was devouring. The grand finale of the coffee, with its aromatic and fruity finish, reminded him of the hordes of people who brought their laptops throughout the day: typing, typing typing, as if they were taking notes on a subject they just knew they were going to fail the test on. Honestly, Mike enjoyed the bustle of the day because it kept him from seeing his own life, from having to deal with his own issues. Mike was living in a state of apathy.

When noon rolled around, Mike, who decided not to take his customary lunch break to Zen Bento stayed and took advantage of the employee discount on parmesan bagels. This act alone would forever change Mike’s life, for just as he would be leaving the store a young woman walked into the shop. Peering around the room, she looked Mike directly in the eyes. Down the middle of the coffee shop, she walked, never breaking the glance, straight to the ordering counter. Like a mythological siren. “I got this one,” Mike said to Shari. Then, to the girl, “Can I help you?”


Sam pushed the doors of the coffee shop open. She stopped at the entrance, and looked around the room. Beautifully colored walls, a rich cream color with dark oak crown molding. Giving off a beautiful golden hue, the lights seemed inviting and calm. Even the floor, a shining bullion color, seemed to radiate peace and happiness. Sam walked in, completely stoked to grab a cup of coffee from such a quaint shop. Looking towards the register, her eyes met those of a dark haired man. He wasn’t entirely handsome, and yet had something mysterious about him. This was someone who had gone through much in his life. This was someone with a story, a past. This was someone who, given enough time, could be your best friend, someone’s ultimate safe house of confidence. This guy, given the right circumstances, would build a wonderful life with wonderful people to support him. By the time all this had gone through Sam’s head she was already at the register. She saw the brown-haired guy whisper something to the other girl behind the counter, while standing there. Then,
“Can I help you?”
“I’d sure hope so!” was all she could think to say. “I mean, you’re the barista and everything. I’ll never be able to make coffee like you!” Why was she stumbling over her words?
“Ok…” said the man, “Well then, what can I get for ya?”
“I’m not entirely sure. What’s good?”
“Pretty much everything. You partial to anything in particular?”
“I like my coffee like I like my men. Rich and black.” Oh man, the joke slipped out.
He chuckled, then straightened back up as if she hadn’t said anything.
“Just finished brewing the house blend. You want some?”
“Sounds as good as anything. Could you leave some room for cream?”
“Sure thing.”


Rich and black? Really? Wow.
Mike liked this girl- mostly because she seemed like the type of person who would be easy to talk to. Probably the type of person who always had a tight group of friends in high school. The type of person, although exactly opposite from him, someone he would like to relate to. As he turned back around, she asked a question that caught him completely off guard.


“Are you happy?”
Sam said the words before she even thought about their implications.
“Excuse me?”
“Happy. Are you happy?”
Quickly reacting, he said “I guess so.” Then smiled, “I get to make coffee all day- who wouldn’t want that, right?” No sarcasm, but a definite undertone of spite.
“Yeah, I see what you mean. How about this, what is it that you love doing?”
“Love?” responded Mike.
“Yeah, love. You know, opposite of hate. Overused word too many guys whisper into the ears of high school sweet hearts. Love.”
Both chuckled at this.
“I guess I’ve never really thought about it.” Said Mike, “love is one of those things that’s always been ambiguous to me. I guess my life has been a series of moment-by-moment decisions.”
“So you’ve never considered love in your thinking process?” asked Sam.
“I guess not, no.” responded Mike.
“Give it a shot sometime. You might find you like it.” Sam winked, then turned away, coffee in hand.


The conversation had been odd. Deep, to be sure, if not a bit awkward. He had grabbed her a cup of the house coffee, tossed in the cream, all without even paying attention to his actions. His mind had been fully engaged in her questions; in her. How was it one girl had captured his attention so suddenly? And yet it wasn’t truly her, although her sandy hair and blue eyes definitely played into it, it was her questions. Who talked about happiness? Love? Were these things to discuss over a mere purchase of a house coffee? As she turned away, he noticed she left her money on the counter to pay for the drink. When he looked up, she was halfway to the door. Gliding, like an angel. “An angel? Yeah, an angel” thought Mike. Straightening his posture, he darted around the counter, lungs bringing in the coffee-laden air in quick intakes. Suddenly, he could feel the sticky mixture of sweat and coffee grounds on his fingertips- he smelled like all-purpose cleaner, he just knew it. Why so self conscious all of a sudden? Moving with a purpose, yet not totally sure what that was, he caught up with Sam when they were three-quarters the way to the front door. She turned.


There he was, standing in front of her. Why? Breathing heavier then was necessary, smelling like all-purpose cleaner, and jeans smudged with coffee. But there he was. Moments ago she had shared the gift of thought with this man. He was in process, but then again, wasn’t she?
“I’ve never really done this before.” He stalled.
“Approached a complete stranger after they bought coffee from you?” Sam asked.
He laughed, less awkwardly then before.
“That, or asked that complete stranger out before. Not like a date, but just like, like a conversation between friends.” Mike responded.
She paused. A million thoughts rapidly rushed through her mind. In the end, wasn’t this just another son of Adam who was scrambling to find out his place in the world? A child of Him, wanting to be loved. Because of this simple fact, wasn’t he just like her?
“I’d like that.” Sam said. Then, “Over a cup of coffee?” She winked again.


And so a meeting of two people ended in friendship. Over time the coffee shop would witness this friendship metamorphosis into a deeper relationship. Over many more discussions and jokes, this relationship would hatch into full blown love. The coffee shop remained as it always had been, stationary. The smell of freshly roasted beans, caramel-colored espresso shots being pulled, and the sweet aroma of mixing syrups. The same sounds: coffee grinding, an ice machine groaning, conversations of people mixing into a wonderful harmony of oration, milk steamers purring and creating frothy blankets which sat on lakes of cream. The sights remained the same: laughing couples, electric outlets in constant use, a teen with earbuds drowning out the world, coffee cups in every hand. The air even felt and tasted the same- a velvet and thick coffee undertone in every breath. And yet, within this stationary object, a relationship gave birth to two people in love. A daughter of Eve, and a son of Adam, joined in that same union which is meant for everyone with the Creator. Finally, through this story, one of the greatest mysteries of all time is brought to light: how is it that in such a broken world of sepia tones and lukewarm emotions, something as pure and faultless as love can exist? How is it that the simple act of caring, of showing love, can mend hearts together? And how is it that when hearts get mended, love is multiplied? Finding the answers to these questions is done only through experiencing that Love, that Happiness.
Mike would say it all starts with one decision to not eat out at lunch break. His wife, Sam, and their two kids would have to agree.


  1. Oh Colin,

    You've go a book in you one day! I LOVED it!

  2. Thanks! Re-reading I found a couple errors... I hope Mrs. Jones doesn't knock me off too bad!

    I thought a story consisting of only one conversation between two people would be interesting :) Glad you liked it!

  3. Good job Colin! You are a great writer :)
    You're style almost reminds me of Frank Peretti... or Ted Decker.
    I love the story.