Open book

open-bookMaybe it was the scent of freshly roasted espresso beans. Or perchance it was the names of influential authors decorating the walls – Faulkner, Hemingway, Kipling, Yeats, and Steinbeck. Whatever the reason, the quiet bookstore situated off the bustling city street was a personal sanctuary for Evan.

Others found solace in the smoky confines of a pub, the noisy background and alcoholic influences drowning out the stressors of any given day. Evan never subscribed to this form of social medication. It wasn’t because of some moral dilemma that he shied away from this modus operandi for so many others. He had tried it himself on my different occasions – beer, wine, vodka, and scotch – they all placated his animosity temporarily, but it returned tenfold when the short-lived effects released their grip on him.

Evan was a thinker. He wasn’t one to push any occurrence, good or bad, to the mental filing cabinet before investigating it from every perspective, certain that there was some hidden nugget of wisdom to be mined from every experience. There was no amount of alcohol, smoke, or codependent bearing of the soul hunched over on a barstool that would ever allow him to reach his objective – a quiet and reflective journey within that allowed him to arrive at the same place he had previously been and see it as if for the first time.

That is why Evan found himself seated in his favorite bookstore café, looking left then right as if to absorb the information and knowledge in the books surrounding him through the power of osmosis. Four paces to the right in cooking and he has, at is fingertips, the steps required to create the most perfect flan in his kitchen. Eleven steps ahead in the music section and he too could learn how to play the melodic syncopation of the ukulele sounds streaming from the speakers above him. Seven strides to the right into the shelves of fiction and he is presented with a plethora of adventure stories, hidden caverns filled with elusive treasure, protected by the most ingenious measures, concealed to everyone save for those few who chose to look closer with a discerning eye. Evan wanted to be one of those few.

coffee-whipped-creamWith both hands wrapped around the glass hot to the touch, Evan was unable to see the steam venting from the hot liquid confined to its container. The small dollop of whipped cream on the surface was preventing that heat, that metaphorical tension, from escaping. Slowly, however, that whipped cream succumbed to the influence from the espresso below, dissolving into the mocha flavored java, allowing the inevitable release of heat. The physical realities of the natural world had a way of opening Evan’s mind to the more esoteric complexities of the world that were unable to be seen by the human eye.

The rustic wooden chair that he sat upon creaked with every subtle movement. Leaning onto the table built from splintering wood, its four legs rocked back and forth from its imperfect construction. We all have our own problems, imperfections, and stumbling blocks, thought Evan. It’s not what happens to us that matters, it’s how we respond to it. He had read that in at least one of the volumes surrounding him right now, perhaps in several of them.

Sometimes Evan found himself in this sanctuary out of habit. Today, however, a specific catalyst accounted for his presence at the café table. As he loosened his tie in an attempt to quell the hostility beginning to resurface, he recalled the events of the staff meeting earlier that day. It was one thing to disagree with a colleague’s opinion. That was natural and necessary. It was quite another to backhandedly undermine another colleague’s suggestion in the name of personal gain. As deeply as he contemplated the scenario, Evan could not find an angle that made any logical sense other than pure, unadulterated greed. His patience for this bureaucratic and political landscape of big business was waning with every supporting circumstance.

Looking back up from his coffee, eyes perusing the other patrons in the café, Evan noticed a couple three tables over, just out of earshot. A middle aged man and a slightly younger woman sat across from each other. The man was slouched over the table, head in his hands, right leg bouncing up and down with anxiety. The woman held a much more composed demeanor, sitting more upright, reaching across the table with her left hand. The diamond ring on her left finger sent Evan’s thoughts running rampant.

Was this woman a mistress, now just breaking the news that she was, in fact, married? Was the man hiding something from the woman across from him, attempting to work up the courage to share it with her? Or maybe the two individuals were brother and sister, figuring out how to deal with the failing health of their parents, one handling it better than the other? Evan surmised that he had perhaps read too many far-fetched novels filled with unexpected plot twists, but the possibilities were endless. His curious nature was too strong.

Feigning indifference to the developing situation, Evan rose from his customary table, laptop in tow, and meandered towards the periodicals, picking up the closest magazine within his grasp. Wandering slowly back into the café area, he chose a different seat, slightly closer to the couple. Flipping through the pages of his recently acquired magazine, he could hear the exchange of voices between the two.

“What are we going to do,” the man pleaded with desperation.

“It’s OK, we will get through this,” reassured the woman.

“But, the mortgage, the college fund for the kids – heck, the electric bill – how are we going to get through this,” he questioned with a bit more urgency.

“Honey, just because I lost my job doesn’t mean there isn’t another one out there for me. It might take a little time and patience, but we will get through this.” She reached across the table and tenderly took hold of his hand.

As the man’s hands uncovered his face, Evan could see the tears running down his cheek. He thought once again of the whipped cream in his coffee cup. Just like the steam trapped within, emotions always find a way to seep through the barriers suppressing them. Sometimes, it takes more time, more persuasion, and more reflection to bring those emotions out into the world. Sometimes we need to be able to accept those feelings ourselves before we can even contemplate sharing them with others. There is always another angle, thought Evan.

george-bernard-shawAs if controlled by his subconscious mind, he leaned over and retrieved the laptop from its case. His eyes drawn to the author’s names on the wall, his gaze fell upon one in particular – George Bernard Shaw. Evan recalled a quote from this great playwright – Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

Looking back down at his open laptop, a blank document and a blinking cursor greeted Evan’s eyes. It was both a challenge and an opportunity, a blank canvas awaiting the unique brushstrokes that only he could compose. And with that thought, his fingers began to dance across the keyboard – Maybe it was the scent of freshly roasted espresso beans …


15 thoughts on “Open book

  1. Writing to Freedom September 25, 2014 / 12:13 pm

    Lovely tale Dave. I love how you paint a picture with your words that draws me in, hooks me emotionally and then offers wise life lessons within the story. And today’s lessons resonate for me.

    • davecenker September 25, 2014 / 2:12 pm

      Thanks Brad, I appreciate your thoughts. There are three words that are a mainstay in my vocabulary as a writer: authenticity, vulnerability, and emotion. It always tickles my soul when a reader mentions one of these, so thank you!

      • Writing to Freedom September 25, 2014 / 2:17 pm

        And I didn’t even read your about page first. They came spontaneously. 🙂

  2. Michelle Mueller September 25, 2014 / 7:00 pm

    My first thought upon clicking over here was, “I really, really want the coffee in that picture.” 🙂

    But that aside, I enjoyed the inspirational feel of this story — the message it was giving. “We will get through this.” It’s the same for Evan and his problems with the big business, the couple’s struggles, or even for the characters in the books Evan mentioned. It’s the same for us, too.

    Keep writing!

    • davecenker September 29, 2014 / 9:07 am

      Thank you Michelle, I second your opinion on the coffee 😉 We all need a personal sanctuary to gather our thoughts and make some sense out of them. When we find where that place exists in this physical world of ours, magic begins to occur. Thanks for taking the time to read and providing such kind comments. And if you find out where I can get a coffee that looks just like that, please let me know 🙂

      • Michelle Mueller September 29, 2014 / 9:31 am

        Will do! And you’re welcome!

  3. balroop2013 September 25, 2014 / 11:30 pm

    Hi Dave,
    This story reinforces my conviction that we all need inspiration and it is all around us in one form or the other…sometimes it comes from the most unexpected quarters and infuses new life into us! You are so right, emotions can never be trapped, they find their own channels. The fragrance of freshly roasted coffee beans and the books that we treasure has seeped through this story to reach us. Thanks for sharing both. Have a blessed weekend!

    • davecenker September 29, 2014 / 9:09 am

      Thank you Balroop. This story helped me to recognize that we all need a space of our own to find inspiration, to gather our thoughts, and to make sense of the ruminations that meander through our psyche. For some it is in nature, for others it’s in a bookstore. The key is finding that place that is special and uniquely you where you are able to connect with the soul. Thank you for taking the time to read and providing your kind comments 😉

  4. Marquita Herald (@marquitaherald) September 26, 2014 / 4:17 pm

    I can relate so well to Evan’s preference for his sanctuary and I do so miss having a bookstore to go to! When Border’s went under there went the last of it’s kind in my area. Oh, we have a few small coffee shops but it’s just not the same. People watching is such a marvelous past time isn’t it?

    I had to smile reading about his curiosity about the couple because when travel was a major part of my work I spent a lot of time in airports. Unlike most of my colleagues I didn’t mind because I loved watching people. A bit of Starbucks, a comfy place to sit and I could people watch the day away – and yes – often made up stories about who they were. Thank you for another captivating story Dave. 🙂

    • davecenker September 29, 2014 / 9:13 am

      Thank you Marty. I fear the same fate for bookstores worldwide. With the progression from print to digital, it seems that a majority of the bookstores on the mainland are still selling books, but also other paraphernalia to draw consumers in to the brick and mortar stores.

      Books should be enough, and it does provide such a wonderful atmosphere for people watching. Life and wisdom happens all around us when we take the time to not only look inside, but also outside on occasion 😉 Thank you for taking the time to read and providing such kind comments. I always enjoy them very much 🙂

  5. Dalo 2013 September 28, 2014 / 3:23 am

    This is just brilliant writing “Maybe it was the scent of freshly roasted espresso beans.” That made me smile at the end and even started to re-read again…to have that comfort, to live & create something special.

    • davecenker September 29, 2014 / 9:18 am

      Thank you very much for your kind words. To know that I have created a smile somewhere else in the world is perhaps the largest compliment I could receive. Thank you for taking the time to read and for sharing your thoughts, and best wishes for an inspired day 😉

  6. Nihar Pradhan June 13, 2015 / 11:55 am

    I must admit I am fortunate to have visited your blog and I don’t know how I missed such brilliant writing. This is indeed a lovey story. The theme, the plot, the language and the choice of word is fabulous…something I really enjoy, the flow and form of writing.

    Here are few snippets;

    The description of the coffee, these lines in particular “small dollop of whipped cream on the surface was preventing that heat, that metaphorical tension, from escaping…”

    These lines of depiction…”presented with a plethora of adventure stories, hidden caverns filled with elusive treasure, protected by the most ingenious measures, concealed to everyone save for those few who chose to look closer with a discerning eye…”

    Evan never subscribed to social medication and he was a thinker…he preferred the cafe than the bar…in the midst of great classic and his mind constantly exploring and expanding, looking at the couple, minutely observing their leg and lip movement, not able to decipher and attempting to guess-estimate. Finally, bridging the gap and getting the real story and seeing the emotions coming out and yes, a wonderful comparison with the coffee glass.

    Blank document and blinking cursor…couldn’t have been better in the end.

    Thanks so much for sharing such a lovely story…

    Have a wonderful weekend.

    • davecenker June 13, 2015 / 2:12 pm

      Thank you Nihar 😉 I sincerely appreciate your heartfelt thoughts and comments. It makes writing even that much more enjoyable than it already is when you are able to convey those emotions to another human being. Best wishes for an inspired day and enjoyable weekend!

      • Nihar Pradhan June 14, 2015 / 7:29 am

        I very much agree to our proposition. Writing is embedded with our emotions and once these emotions connects with readers, we always feel elated and more motivated to writer better.
        You too have a lovely weekend.

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