"Thanks for the coffee, toots." And with that, the burly man left the cafe.
He was Will Madison: age 42, height of 6'1", weight of 250 pounds, husband of Mallory Madison, father of Kelly and Barry Madison. He didn't work as anything special. He wasn’t the president or a celebrity; he was just a simple construction worker. The time was 11:13 PM.
How was I supposed to know that those were the last words anyone would ever hear from him? About 15 minutes later, on Cadbury Avenue, going about 45 miles per hour, Will Madison, the husband, the father, the worker, the man, made his last act of construction and destroyed a wall; first with his car, then with his windshield, then with his head. Time and chance conspired with diet and birth, leaving behind a house, two dogs, a pile of bills, and the rest of life as he knew it.
He also left behind these last words:
I only vaguely remember it; a blurry memory lost among the hundreds, if not thousands, of thanks I’ve gotten slinging coffee. Had I not looked in the paper the next day, I would have never remembered him. He wouldn't even have been a smudge on the tapestry of my memory. He wasn't a regular. His tip wasn't anything out of the ordinary. He was just a guy wanting some coffee before he went home.
He just was. And then, like that, he wasn't.
I pour another cup of coffee, this time for a young lady. I look at her… and I mean really look at her: blonde hair coming down to round, yet slim ears that are adorned with a light blue circular set of earrings which bookend a long face touched with study, worry, hope, and youth and unmarred by the touch of make-up or time.
Her eyes, pale green and full, barely look at me. Every part is a piece of a creation that took years to make, a blueprint that only came together after generations of work. She more looks past me and I suddenly wonder what she’s thinking, what’s her story, who will miss her. I don’t ask.
She mutters a thanks and I wonder if I’ll ever hear her say it again someday. I nod, forgetting to say “Your Welcome!” as I turn around and walk back to the counter.
For a second I think that if I turn around, she'll be gone; vanished in a puff of smoke or maybe no smoke at all.
Maybe it's all just a here then a not here. Maybe it's not just that simple. All I know is that I pour the coffee, breathe in breaths, step on a hard floor, and am only sure that people are there when I can see them, touch them, feel them. Then again, maybe I'm not so sure of any of those...