The rain began falling when I turned onto Wyndham Street, close enough to home that I thought I might run for it, but the storm was soon in earnest, and I had nothing to cover the book I was reading, so I stepped under the nearest awning, an organic cafe, fair trade coffee and vegan cuisine, that sort of thing, with the menu in scribbles on dusty chalkboards, and hand painted signs on the washroom doors, and cast off wooden tables old enough to have cigarette burns from a time when it was still legal to smoke in restaurants.
The spatter from the rain on the metal patio furniture reached even to where I stood against the window of the cafe, so I retreated further from it, through the glass door, where the guy behind the bar met my eyes, his hair long and unwashed and uncombed, falling into what were not quite dreadlocks, and I felt that I should at least buy a coffee or something in return for my shelter.
“The coffee kind.”
“Cappuccino? Espresso? Americano? Latte? Breva? Macchiato? Mocha? Granita? Frappe? Lungo? Ristretto?”
“The biggest, darkest, blackest, most caffeinated, least adulterated coffee you can manufacture back there.”
“You don’t have to worry about your cream and sugar here, man. It’s totally fair trade and organic. You can indulge guilt free.”
“No. Really. Black is good.”
The barista shrugged and brushed his hair back from his face, then wiped the sweat from his forehead with the back of his hand. “Whatever makes you tick, man.” He took one of the large mismatched clay mugs from behind him, set it under the filter, ground the beans, and poured the water. It smelled like good coffee. I tasted anticipation on my tongue.
He put the mug down, and I paid better than three times what he asked. “Keep it filled please.”
“Sure, man.” He nodded at the window and wiped his forehead again. “Looks like you might be here a while.”
“Hopefully it cools things off. I’m sweating like a pig in here.”
I carried my book and my coffee to a table. The rain was making a high pinging sound through the screen windows, striking a thousand notes simultaneously from the tin of the window awnings. The coffee was good, not as good as my own, but good, and it seemed to me that there was some relation, unnameable perhaps, but certain nonetheless, between the pinging of the awnings and the movement of the coffee in my cup as I raised it to my lips and lowered it to the table.