A Cup of Coffee and a Song
MMP / 7272
By Justin Lo
~Contemplate, don’t mope.~
A woman walked through the snow, wearing a cardinal-red polar fleece jacket that caught a few little flakes, hands in her pockets. She withdrew one hand to push her pony tail up a bit, though it was quite restricted because of the baseball cap she was wearing.
As did most of the other people in the streets, she wore blue jeans; the pale blue garment accented the fact that the woman was very slim and petite. However, unlike the other people around her, she didn’t seem to enjoy the snow or hear the joyful cries of the children who were firing snowballs at each other. Though still beautiful, her face seemed weary and oblivious; she nearly walked off the sidewalk and into the street without realizing what she was doing. It was obvious that she needed her morning cup of coffee.
She inadvertantly collided with several people as if she were steering a car while trying to make a call and change the radio. They gave her funny looks and she apologized meekly, a habit that she had gotten into when she realized that everyone was at least a head taller than her.
The coffee shop was probably only a block away now, but the woman gave no sign of eagerness to reach her destination. Hazardous ice lined most of the sidewalk for the portion left to go. Many people decided to take detours, but the woman took no notice that the snow had changed to ice. Her grip on the ice was impeccable and several people assumed that it would be safe to cross. A few slipped and the rest proceeded with tightened feet. The woman spared a glance at the fallen people but kept on walking. A person must get up by him or herself because in the real world, there is nobody to help someone back up.
The woman opened the door to the coffee shop and patted her boots a few times to dislodge some of the trapped snow. Looking at her feet, she proceeded to the counter and stood in line, getting some money out of her purse. When it was her turn, the cashier recognized her immediately and ordered her favorite type of coffee.
“Hello, Suxi. So, how do things go today?” asked the cashier.
“Very well, thank you,” said Suxi, her eyes quiet and distant. Her cheeks were flaming pink and a little chafed from the morning commute but her hands were steady as she raised them to clasp the warm cup of coffee. Putting the cup on the counter, she handed the cashier three dollars and received a few coins as change.
“Thank you,” said Suxi, turning around to sit down. A small table with a little black wire-frame chair invited her over to the corner. She sat down and began to sip her coffee like a cat drinks its milk.
She listened to the soothing music that the store was playing. One song ended and Suxi looked out the window. Little frost patterns marched towards the center of the window and she could only see through a small hole in the middle. Cars drove back and forth and people moved around, occasionally pausing to chat.
Suddenly, another song began on the loudspeaker in the store. Suxi’s eyes opened wide and she turned her head to face the wall. Her hands, once lightly holding the coffee cup to keep warm, now clawed into the cup so harshly that her cup was punctured and collapsed. The brown liquid bled out onto the green marble table and created a small waterfall, dripping onto her coat and pantleg. Suxi made no move to do anything about the matter and just sat there, frozen in a wave of emotions.
A woman in a jade dress that had its hem right above the ground ran over and brought a lot of napkins. At first, Suxi made a motion to dismiss the woman but she refused to let Suxi be burned. The table was wiped up with relative ease and her jacket and pants dried easily with the heater nearby.
“Are you all right, young lady?” asked the woman in the dress, standing up and straightening out her dress.
Suxi just sat there, tears starting to drip onto the table where the coffee had once spilled. She held her head with both her hands and breathed deeply, though the sniffling kept coming.
“What is the matter?” pressed the woman.
Suxi gasped for air after a long sob and said, “The song.” Other people minded their business in a courteous way and the corner of the room seemed to be an isolated room in itself.
The woman just commented, “It’s quite a beautiful piece.”
Suxi glared at the woman with menacing eyes, clenching her fists and teeth. “I hate it.” She looked back out the window.
“No, you don’t hate the song. The song is about joy and youth. A woman like you would never hate the song itself. What is this really about? Trust me, I would understand.”
“No, you wouldn’t understand,” said Suxi, getting ready to leave the coffee shop.
The woman looked at the diminutive woman, studying her face.
“Please, take off your cap at least. It isn’t polite to wear hats inside,” said the old woman. Suxi complied and revealed a bundle of auburn hair that fell down on the sides and the front. She pushed a few long bangs behind her ears. The woman immediately recognized the face, though fifteen years had done much to mature it. Memories flowed back.
“I know what happened,” said the woman. “It wasn’t your fault and it wasn’t the song’s fault.”
Suxi returned a surprised gaze. “Do you want to hear the story … from my point of view?” she asked softly.
“Yes, I would.”
“I was only twenty,” began Suxi, “but I knew that my first visit to the Olympics, the one in that year, would have to be my last. I trained all my life to compete as a figure skater there and I’d get a chance to realize my dreams. I watched my rival, a nineteen-year-old girl from my own country, perform with grace. At least, it was graceful until she slipped up and made a faulty landing, though she didn’t fall. The judges, though, they didn’t care because she had been at the Olympics four years earlier and at the national competition for five years, snagging four golds. They gave her really high marks and that made me angry. I lost focus and I miscalculated a twirl when it was my turn to perform, slamming into the ice and recovering. The song had just reached its most beautiful point, with a florid violin solo reaching into the Heavens, but I couldn’t bear it any more. I finished with a bang, yes, letting myself go all out but the judges were harsh and knocked me down to nothing. No medal, no joy. Afterwards, we were all heading back to our hotel to rest up and then leave the next day. There was ice on the ground and I wasn’t paying attention to it. My sneakers slipped and I had one embarrassing crash. I even began to bleed a little. And even then, my rival could spare no aid. She giggled a bit and kept walking, and only my coach helped me up and wiped up the blood. That was the end of skating for me, and ever since, I’ve been attending college and working in restaurants,” said Suxi.
The song now reached the violin solo and Suxi dropped to the ground, tears loud and excruciating. The woman in the green dress looked at Suxi’s pitiful face and lent a hand to lift her up.
“I was young, then,” said the woman with remorseful eyes. “I did not know that there was a soul in each person, a soul that was as human as mine.”
Suxi looked at her former rival’s outstretched hand and took it. Together, the two new friends exited the coffee store. A child was struggling, laying on the ice, arm likely injured. Suxi and the other woman came to his aid and lifted him up, carrying him over to his parents. Perhaps all people needed to helped up once in awhile.
January 13, 2002
Note: Suxi is pronounced “Soo-zjee”