He is fed up with the situation, fed up of wandering around. This to him unknown city didn’t seem to be inviting to him to join. It didn’t want Quinn to take part. Although he had seen most of what there was to see, he still hadn’t got a sense of the city. He couldn’t visualise a map in his mind. No sense of orientation, no spatial organisation presented itself to him. It was a sunny day, a seemingly prosperous day. But he was tired. Quinn had the urgent wish to walk into a small café, which he spotted in a side alley. The dark brown wood on the outside seemed inviting to him. There was no name written outside, but there was a small bell above the door, which made a sound as he walked through the door.
As he sat down at the counter of the café, he looked at the blackboard on the wall and started to read the in chalk written menu. “I don’t know what I want!” Quinn said. “Well, you see what kinds of coffee we offer, and if you don’t like them, I guess I can make almost every drink you could want,” was the instant reply of the girl behind the bar, who seemed overconfident in saying so. “I don’t doubt you can. Usually I seem to know what I want to drink when I decide to go to a café, but just now, as I walk down this alley, I only had the desire to come in here, into this café.” The girl behind the counter seemed slightly irritated by this reply. “I don’t mean to be a difficult, neither am I one of those creeps hanging around in a café and trying to flirt around. I don’t even do chitchat with people around me, usually. I simply had to come in here. I am tired of walking around in this city that I don’t know. A little overwhelmed I feel, you could say. Surely you can guess that I am not from around here. Yes, you are right. I hope I don’t bore with my talk. I am usually the quiet type that orders, drinks his coffee, smokes his cigarette and is off again. But somehow that doesn’t work for me today.”
“Don’t worry about me. But tell me; can I help you with some nice coffee? It might make you feel better about; well about whatever you might need to feel better about.”
“It certainly would. But as I said I don’t really know what I want. I don’t want anything that is written on that chalkboard. This is not the first café I have been to today. I had cappuccinos, café lattes, and about half a dozen espresso. Maybe that’s even the reason I talk so much. I almost feel I have to be apologetic about myself. You don’t know me, I don’t know this place very well, and I don’t even have a clue who you might be, but I seem to let out this stream of words without hesitation.”
“I am Alice. Nice to meet you. Perhaps that makes you feel a little easier about being here, feeling a little less apologetic about yourself, and about choosing a coffee you like to drink?”
“Hmm… I appreciate that very much. I am Quinn by the way. Now that we know so much about each other”, he says with a shy smile on his face, “maybe you can help me out. I don’t want to repeat that I don’t know what I want, but this is actually the case.”
“Well, now that you have come into my café by some apparent desire of yours”, she says with a cheeky grin, “and obviously being the only customer, why don’t you choose something, why don’t you tell me you favourite kind of coffee and I’ll give it my best shot in order to make it the best you have had.”
“I somehow expected you would urge me to choose, but I have another suggestion. I see those shelves behind you. I see those different brands coffee beans. I see the different kinds of flavours; vanilla, liquorice and all those berries. I can smell cinnamon sticks, cardamom seeds, and the sweetness of brown sugar. I can smell freshly ground coffee. I can almost touch the texture of the different kinds of filters. Therefore, wouldn’t it be best if you make me the one coffee you can do best. Give me, don’t make me choose.”
“Listen Quinn, this is not my first day behind the counter. Until now I have managed to satisfy any request from any customer. You might be a visitor, but you don’t look like one. You haven’t found this café accidently, but you are not the guide-book-travelling type. You mean what you say, but you don’t know what you want. I’ll bet whatever you wish; I will be able to do it for you.”
“You see, that’s not the problem and I don’t want to say it again. Let me tell you what I want you to do. Look at me…”
“I am”, she replied quickly and starred right in his eyes.
“Look at me. Look at me very carefully. Then look inside. Look through me. My name is all you need to know, it’s almost too much already that you know about me. Make your own picture of me. Find out about me. Use your senses. Don’t ask but tell me what you find, and then according to your judgement, you will make the perfect coffee for me.”
“If you give me some insights about your preferences of milk or soya, strong or weak, that kind of thing, than I will fix something for you. I mean everybody has their own little favourites, right?”
“Don’t ask, but tell!”
An awkward moment of silence occurred, as Alice realised that Quinn’s proposal was meant serious. In her mind she accepted the challenge, even though she was not sure if it was a challenge or his sincere wish. Regaining her focus she took a deep breath and did what he had suggested. Her eyes move away from his and started circling around him.
“The dark coffee stain on your white shirt tells me about drinking habits. You walk and drink your coffee at the same time. The second stain tells me that you do drink a lot of coffee. Apart from your coffee stains, you seem neat and tidy. You like to finish what you have started. You dress simple but elegant. I had noticed your shoes already when you came in. Pale yellow; quiet walk; they seem comfortable. I think you care a big deal more about your shoes, than about your shirts being white. You are not the purest of guys. You like to know the road ahead of you. That might even be the reason you came in here earlier. You didn’t know anymore what you were heading towards. Your eyes look tired. The rings underneath them seem to underline your exhaustion. Despite your tiredness, there is a touch of a sweet smile left on your face. Bittersweet, but maybe more bitter than sweet.”
Alice had turned around and began to make Quinn’s coffee. Quinn turned around. He didn’t want to watch her, but only listen. After she had finished making the coffee, she handed in over to Quinn. He smelled it and slowly began to drink.
“I taste vanilla. Not the essence, but the actual vanilla. The coffee is strong, it’s a double espresso. The milk you have warmed and mixed with cardamom before coffee was poured into it. The foam is gentle and not too much. The circles on top of the foam were made with another shot of espresso poured into it. Then you finished it with cinnamon sprinkled on top. This is my coffee you saw in a takeaway cup. That is me.”