I was reading Ashley Jillian‘s post on places with mediocre coffee and the peculiar people you see at such places and it reminded me that I also had a place like that. I used to go there a lot, but I’ve stopped going ever since I got my own place and can have all the peace and quiet I want there.
But well, at the time I was living in a small apartment, with 3 other people, broke, and the only time I had to write was in the middle of the night. Since the apartment was too small, I didn’t have a place where I could just lock myself in without disturbing others. Plus, they always accused me of being anti-social, because I would give my laptop more attention than I’d give them. Well, they loved the TV and I never complained, but whatever. So I went to the only place I could think of, a diner with free wi-fi and a never-ending pot of coffee that’s open 24/7.
I started going because I didn’t have another option. Then, after I moved out of the apartment, I kept going there just because, just out of habit. I met two servers that were always working late at night, which was when I used to go there, and they where awesome. They took care of me but never bothered me. They didn’t care I took up a whole table for myself and I left them a good tip. They’d even joke sometimes because I’d get there before them and sometimes only left after their shift was over. We had a good thing going on.
I probably realized I was going there too much when I saw a new face greeting me at the front door. Recognizing a new face is always a sign you’ve been there one too many times. But that was not all. Suddenly the manager popped from behind the new guy and said I wanted table 47. That was the best table for someone with a laptop. It had easy access to an outlet and the advantage of not having anyone behind you who can peek over your shoulders. And I always sat there. Then she gave me a smile, asked me how I was, and left. Yep, I was going there way too much. But that didn’t stop me from going back.
Until the day a guy came in and sat at the table to my right. Nothing unusual, you would say, and I would agree, it wasn’t for the fact that he started talking to me. He saw my iPhone and showed me he had an iPod. I nodded, politely, and turned my attention back to my laptop. Then he started showing me pictures of his drawings. An artist, cool. First pictures of cats, nice pictures, by the way, but then nude pictures. No, not only nude picture, pictures of couples together and in nude. Awkward. But then he excused himself explaining he made those while he was in jail. Because that would make it all better. The waiter came and I took the opportunity to turn my attention back to my laptop.
After the waiter left he started talking to me again. He said life was really hard because people judged him just because he was in jail. Then I felt bad. I had judged him. So I decided to talk to him. Then he started telling me about this girl he was talking to and she seemed pretty interested in him and then her boyfriend showed up from nowhere and told him to leave. He pulled a knife on the boyfriend but the boyfriend’s friend had called security and he ended up being arrested again. He kept insisting that it was not fair and I kept thinking there was nothing good I could say. I couldn’t agree with him, but if I didn’t, would he be mad at me? Would he do anything to me?
Then he saw a ring on my finger and asked me what the ring meant. That’s when I decided to excuse myself saying I had to leave, that I didn’t realize how late it was till now. It was not even midnight, which was so not late for someone known for staying there till at least 2am, but I just had to leave. While I was packing my things he started asking if there was someone waiting for me at home. I say yes, without offering any more explanations. He asked me where I lived and I just panicked. I said I was sorry but I wasn’t comfortable sharing that kind of information with a stranger. He said he understood, but I wasn’t sure what to think of it.
The whole drive home I kept checking on my rear-view mirror to see if there was anyone following me. There wasn’t and I arrived home safely. But I couldn’t stop thinking that had been the strangest conversation I’d had lately. At least in person. I do have crazy conversations on Twitter, but that’s a whole other universe.