Fifteen years ago, a man named Raymond began coming into the Coffee Shop. He had always been a quiet man, but after weeks of perseverance, the Owner began coaxing him into conversation. In return, Raymond began bringing flower bulbs to brighten the front counter.
The bulbs soon sprouted beautiful flowers. When they died, Raymond dutifully collected them, replacing those he took with fresh new life.
Before long, Raymond’s presence became a regularity at the Coffee Shop. Every day he purchased a black coffee and a croissant and sat beneath the windows to enjoy them.
One day he disappeared. Years passed, but the Owner never forgot his face.
This autumn, Raymond came back. Thirty pounds thinner and noticeably quieter, he resumed his routine. Raymond had been in the hospital after losing his mother.
Two nights ago, while I was closing up shop, he came in. After adjusting the potted flowers and carefully watering them, he turned to go. Before reaching the door, he turned and spoke.
He told me that he was leaving. He asked me to say good-bye to the Owner for him (he was a good man). He told me that he was going on a trip to Morocco. He told me he had a one-way ticket.
Then he was gone, again.
Today, the flowers brightened my day just a little bit more than usual. They made me think of all the lives that intersect at the Coffee Shop. And I’m lucky to play a small part in so many lives. Maybe someday I’ll be able pay it forward (or get even) as a writer.
Until then, I’ll keep collecting. Hoping that I’ve added a little happiness to someone’s day. Waiting for the Paper Whites to bloom.