When Two Souls Meet for Coffee


She was sitting alone at a table for four. As I balanced my coffee, my salad, and my book, I noticed all the other tables in the café were taken. We made eye contact, and she invited me to sit at her table. She was a middle-aged, heavyset woman with disheveled graying hair, mismatched clothes and eyes that seemed old and young at the same time. I hesitated, feeling shy about sitting with a stranger, then made my decision and plopped myself across from her.

“It’s pretty cold out there, isn’t it?” I offered as a conversation starter.

“It certainly is,” she said with a toothless smile. “I’m Kimberly. What’s your name?”

“I’m Leslie.”

“Do you like to read?” she asked.

“I do,” and I showed her the book I was reading.

“Do you live around here?” she asked

“I live right across the street. Where do you live?”

“I live in the apartments right over there.”

“Oh, are those nice apartments?”

“I like mine a lot.”

She smiled, gazing warmly at me.

“I can tell you’re smart,” she said.

She spread her arms. “You have an aura around you, and I know you’re really smart.”

“Thank you,” I said, taken a bit by surprise.

“Do you have a job?” she asked

“I help people with special needs. And I volunteer with the town to help people with all kinds of disabilities, like physical disabilities and mental illness.”

“Oh,” she said knowingly. “I know all about mental illness. My son has schizophrenia. And I spent some time as a patient in the psyche hospital. Did you ever notice that people who are sick sometimes have special abilities? When I was in the hospital, I made some wonderful paintings!”

She paused. “I like you. You’re really nice. I can feel it. You’re a really nice person.”

I shifted a little nervously in my chair. Her openness about her psychiatric past surprised me and perplexed me. I felt some kinship because I had been in a hospital for a mental illness at one time, but I had done everything in my power to hide this fact from the world.

“I’m moving,” she said. “My mother has Alzheimer’s and she can’t live alone anymore, so I’m moving in with her. I’m packing all my things.”

Then she suddenly got excited. “I have a book you might like. It’s by Edgar Allen Poe. And I have a book about the brain. I’ve learned a lot about the brain!”

She pulled out a pen, grabbed a napkin and started drawing and labeling all the sections of the brain, explaining them to me in detail.

“Well, I don’t know if I need another book,” I gently protested. But she was so excited about offering me the books. I felt guilty about rejecting her offer. “Well, maybe just the Edgar Allen Poe book.”

She bubbled with happiness. “I’ll go get it for you! I’ll be right back. Stay here.”

With nothing for warmth but a sweater, she ran out into the frigid cold, crossed the busy main road, and disappeared among the apartments on the hill.

I sipped my coffee and ate the rest of my salad, feeling guilty I had sent this woman out into the cold to get me an Edgar Allen Poe book.

After some time she reappeared before me with the book and an old, ripped Time magazine. “I brought you this, too, she said breathing hard with excitement. I thought you might like it.

“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you so much.”

“You’re such a nice person. You’re a wonderful person. I’m so glad I’ve met you,” she gushed.

I almost blushed with humility.

“Well, it’s been so nice getting to know you,” I replied. “I’ve got to go now. I wish you the best of with your move and helping your mother.” I got up to leave. I knew she didn’t have a car. I didn’t want to see her going out into the cold again with just her sweater.

“Can I give you a ride back to your apartment?”

She beamed. “That would be great! And it means I’ll get to spend more time with you!”

We walked out of the café and to my car. She maneuvered her bulk into the passenger seat, beaming the whole time. I drove over to the apartment complex and turned into the main entrance.

“Which apartment is yours?” I asked.

“It’s on the other side,” she said.

I drove around the buildings until I came to hers and pulled over.

Kimberly looked at me and said in a hushed voice, “I’m going to do something that I don’t do to many people. This means I like you very much.”

She reached over and pinched my right cheek, then pinched my left cheek.

With one last smile, she opened the door of the car, maneuvered her bulk and stepped out. As she closed the door, I waved goodbye and drove off, the energy from her fingers imprinted on my cheeks for eternity.

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Stock photo by omnislash


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