A Blind Coffee Date
By David Chang
“Who is this?”
My hyper energetic eight year old grandson kept constantly repeating the question while waving a photo in front of my face.
“Calm down Billy,” I responded. “I can’t answer unless you allow me to see the photo.”
Billy handed me the photo. I took the photo and looked at it. In the photo, a woman is leaning against a railing, face turned to the left, and smiling. As I gazed at the picture, I smiled; a smile created from both memories of happiness and sadness.
“This is a surprise,” I said. “Where did you get this picture?”
“Dad, mom and I were going through some of the old stuff in the attic and we found some old photo album that you apparently made.” Billy replied while playing with the carpet floor. “I was flipping through the album when I found the photo. I asked mom and dad about it, but they said that some things are better left not knowing.”
“You’re parent’s are right,” I chuckled. “A lot of adults have secrets they are not ready or even willing to share to others.”
Billy frowned at me; he really wanted to found out about that mysterious person. “However,” I continued. “Since you’re curious, I will tell you.”
Billy instantly stared at me with full attention as I began my tale.
“Her name is Elisa. She and I went to the same high school together and were in the same graduating year, but she didn’t arrive until senior year. She was popular among a lot of my classmates; although she did have her own personal group of friends, you could always see her with various people around her. She was also very beautiful.”
“Did you ever talk to her?” Billy asked.
I laughed, “I had cold feet. I could not seem to introduce myself or talk to her. I didn’t have confidence. I could only admire her from a few feet away because our lockers were close. Even so, I always wished to talk to her. That wish was granted in the Spring Semester of high school. She joined the Track and Field team for the school; a team I had been a part of for three years.”
“Did you two finally talk after that?”
I smiled, “no, because she was a short distance runner while I was a long distance runner so we were separated during practices. At the same time, I still was a bit shy. However, a friend that we both knew on the team got us together to talk. Because of that, I finally got to talk to Elisa and a new friendship began.”
“That’s nice to hear,” Billy said while squirming—no surprise seeing as how I’m telling a long story and he’s eight. “But that doesn’t explain the photograph.”
“I’m getting there. I’m getting there. You have to be patient. Even though we developed a deep friendship, the school year was ending and we would be graduating. We would all go our separate ways. One day after practice, the senior team members, Elisa and I all gathered along a railing outside of the school. The area had a good view of a bay that was near the town and the sun that shined. We stood there admiring the scenery while talking about our future. We talked about the schools we were going, the majors we would take, and the careers we wanted; overall our hopes, goals, and dreams. We all talked until the sunset, then we all just watched…watched the sun touch the bay, watched the sun go halfway, until gone was the day, and the moon and stars arrive for their stay.”
“When the sun was halfway under the bay, I took out my camera, asked Elisa to turn, and snapped the photo. Usually girls are shy either cover their face or move away, she just smiled. That is the photo I took of her all those years ago.”
“So that’s what happened?” Billy asked.
“Yep,” I answered.
“Do you two still talk to each other?”
I was silent for a moment before responding. “No, we don’t anymore.”
“Why not?” he questioned. “With a story like that you two should’ve been close, right?”
Again, there was a moment of silence before I responded. “It got complicated after high school. We kept in contact during the early days of college by exchanging numbers, being friends on a social media website I had back in the day called Facebook. But ultimately, we just went on our own separate paths. Even so, I never forgot about her and on the day I decided to reconnect I was devastated to find out she unfriended me on Facebook. Later on, her account disappeared, most likely it was deleted. The number I received from her also changed. I still have it, but I always get ‘this number available’ from the other line.”
Billy and I sat in silence. We both shifted uncomfortably in our seats. Finally Billy spoke.
“So that’s it?”
“Yep,” I said. “However, that isn’t the complete end of the story. Before we completely lost contact, I did call her and she answered. We chatted for a short time, but it meant the world to me. Before we ended the call, we both decided to catch up on coffee when we weren’t busy. I tried to make arrangements when we were on break, but somehow she was always busy, and then we fully lost contact. My life still went on. Sure, it was disappointing, but everyone goes through life with ups and downs. If things went differently, maybe we would still be friends, maybe possibly even more. Don’t worry Billy, I’m happy with the life I’ve lived and I’m happy to have you as my grandson. At this point, I just want to catch up with her, how her life has been throughout the years.”
“Will you ever have that coffee conversation with her?” asked Billy.
“It’s something I hope for,” I replied. “Well that’s the end of the story for this picture.”
“I didn’t know there was so much behind that picture.”
“Well that’s because I went into full detail about it,” I said. “Besides, one day you will be telling these stories at my age.”
Billy left that evening. With him gone, I continued my daily evening ritual: dinner, reading, and then bed. As I got into bed, I picked up the picture and stared at it. As I looked at it, I smiled; Elisa truly shined in the photo. Her face shined radiantly as the golden-orange light shined subtly on her fair skin, and black hair while her teeth glistened white as she smiled.
I sighed, my dry wrinkling hand slowly feeling the glossy photo and touching the image of Elisa’s cheek. Putting the picture by my night stand, I turned off the lamp and lied in bed. Before going to sleep, I whispered, “one day…” And I took my last breath.
* * *
I awoke to a bright shining light. As my vision adjusted to the surroundings, I couldn’t see anything. There was no shape, figure, or objects around me, just solid opaque white. I looked at myself. I was wearing some kind of golden-white robe with sandals. As I looked back up after I was checking myself out, a porcelain basin on top of a pedestal appeared. I walked toward the pedestal and looked inside to find it filled to the rim in water. I placed the fingers from my left hand inside the water; it felt soothing. After submerging my entire left hand, I submerged my other hand. Clasping them together, I splashed some of the water onto my face. After cleansing my face, I opened my eyes, surprised at the reflection I saw before me. I saw myself…but younger. In the water’s reflection, I saw a young man, just barely twenty, without wrinkles, without grey or white hairs, a man who has not aged. I looked at my hands again but more closely. They too did not display wrinkles but smooth complexion.
After examining my hands, the basin disappeared and a table appeared with two chairs. Sitting on the chair, I looked at the contents on the table. To my right was a medium sized saucer with two kouign amann pastries on top of it. The crown shaped pastries’ skin shined golden brown as if they were just taken out of the oven. In the middle was two cups with saucers below them. Both cups were filled to the rim with a light brown liquid mixed together with a white liquid creating the imagery of a leaf.
Coffee? The realization of the drink only fueled my confusion of everything around me.
Even so, I continued to scan the table. Finally, my left side had the photo of Elisa. The picture looked exactly like the one I received from Billy. I picked it up; it felt the same as before I went to sleep. I stared at it for some time until I heard the chair in front of me move and somebody sitting down—I apparently have company.
I put the photo down and to my shock, in front of me was Elisa. She looked the same as the photograph I had. I was surprised beyond belief. It was hard to speak much less formula any words. Was it really her?
“Elisa?” I finally uttered.
She just smiled and nodded before whispering, “It’s been a while.”
“More than we can both imagine.” I laughed.
She laughed a little and then handed me a picture. Taking it, I saw it was also an old picture of me during the time at the railing; Elisa also took a picture of me after I did the same to her. I grinned knowing that she still had it all this time.
“It seems we finally do have a chance have coffee together.” Elisa said.
“It seems so,” I responded while placing the two pictures back on top of the table.
“There’s such much to tell you and to ask you, I don’t know where to start?”
I took a sip of my coffee while agreeing with her statement. The taste was initially very strong and bitter, but slowly turned sweet.
“Well,” I finally answered. “How about we start from the beginning?”