"When Hemingway Went to The Coffee Bean" by Anahit Petrosyan
When Hemingway Went to The Coffee Bean
Because of the regulars, that coffeehouse thrived. I’d sit among the same faces every other morning and wonder whether they had no other place to be. Maybe they thought the same of me. That was my local coffeehouse, and I’d stop there on my morning walks to drink my usual iced-tea lemonade on a hot day or Scottish Breakfast tea on cooler mornings. The barista already knew my order by heart but learning my one-syllabled name took him a bit longer than expected.
The regulars had their favorite seats, but I didn’t mind where I sat since the place felt like my territory anyway. That’s how we felt as regulars; I could tell from body language. When a newcomer took one of the outdoor seats, we all threw a casual glance, acknowledging the unfamiliar face or trying to recognize it. It was like a playground where some kids claimed dominion over certain regions of the field.
I was looking for a story to write. I figured the coffeehouse inspires lots of aspiring writers, maybe it could do the same for me. That’s when the interesting man pulled up in his red, two-door car. He parked in the usual spot across from the coffeehouse and stepped out, newspaper in hand, walking nonchalantly. He was a short man, ripe in age, his gray hair still showing streaks of gold like sunlight cast upon a stack of hay. His eyes drooped down and all his facial features seemed to have been placed in one small area, composed of lines falling across the surface like river canals. He always wore the same gold chain draped around his neck and always carried a newspaper in one hand. His coffeehouse friends were half his age, who were also twice mine. I didn’t think much of these men, until l was looking for a story. I leaned slightly in my chair and casually observed those around me, like the woman talking incessantly on her cellphone with a blank gaze ahead or the man sitting with his dog on his lap and a book with dull colors in his hand. That’s what Hemingway taught me, to observe even the unimportant matters, and I practiced it until it became instinctive.
This interesting man sat with his younger friends. He spoke of almost everything with them, but his favorite thing to do was move about the coffeehouse, talking to everyone at the place, while his younger friends feasted their eyes on any female passers-by. Suddenly, the door swung open and the barista came outside to clean the tables, disturbing my idle thoughts. She was cheery, the kind that began to annoy you after you had seen her long mouth curved upwards in a grin — like a black hole — for more than a passing moment. She wiped down the table of the interesting man while engaging in an inaudible conversation. His middle-aged friends simply stared at the happy girl, surprisingly showing no interest. It must have been the black hole.
Hemingway was right. There really wasn’t much to writing except sitting at the computer and bleeding. I looked around me with an empty gaze while bits of conversations caught my ear.
“What time is it?”
I tried to focus.
There was no inspiration.
“You know what they say about eleven?”
It was too loud.
What do they say about eleven?
“I don’t know, I’m asking you.”
I shut my computer and placed it in its bag. Conversations were dull, and I was ready to find a different place to beat the writer’s block. I thought again, forcing sentences to form but ending up in revulsion at this spew. I tried reading some of Hemingway’s quotes, scrolling through the page and stopping to where he wrote, “I drink to make other people more interesting.” I looked up at the interesting man immersed in his newspaper. When I got to my feet, a thought occurred.
It was the next morning when I took a paper and pen and had an Uber drive me to the coffeehouse. I waited in the car until the interesting man came out. I set out to follow him, and I was in the right mind to do so. After some time waiting, I saw him walk to his red coupe with his elbows pointed slightly up and his golden chain glistening in the sunlight. I offered some of my whiskey to the Uber driver, pouring it in the plastic cup he had given me for water. I don’t know why he refused, so I waved him off and drank it myself.
“Miss,” he interrupted, “it’s ten in the morning.”
I nodded lazily. “You know what they say about the number ten?”
He eyed me from the rear-view mirror. “No, what?”
“I don’t know, I’m asking you.”
He mumbled something like, “Oh, God,” or a similar statement of despair.
I had asked the driver to follow the red car since to me all the cars looked alike. After a block or two, he came to a stop across from a mid-sized house painted in bright yellow. There were gates and tidy green bushes fenced around the house. A stone pavement led to the doorway. When the interesting man had gotten inside and shut the door, I too stepped out. I wanted to know what made this man so interesting. So, I tucked my paper in my pocket while my pen helped to pin my hair back and prepared to climb the side of the fence.
I gripped the black bars and pushed my weight up with my feet. I threw a leg over and then the other. One short, trimmed tree to climb, and I would have a good view in the living-room window. When I had put my face through tiny green leaves close-in, I saw into the man’s window, drapes pulled back. There was a single couch and a coffee table carrying countless piles of newspapers. A grandfather clock rested in the far corner of the house. Beside the clock was a small table set for one, with only one chair. The walls were bare; no photographs could be seen from my view. The pendulum of the clock swayed from side-to-side, and then the clock began to float like a heavy bee in mid-air.
I must have pushed myself too far when I fell over the fence onto the green lawn. I lay there for a while, unable to get up, when the interesting man rushed out his door. I wobbled to my feet while he stared, widening his little eyes. He seemed to ask for an explanation, but I had none at the moment. I stared back, forcing a response to come out of my mouth. He strikingly resembled Hemingway at the moment; in fact, I was convinced it was Hemingway himself with his arched brows and coquettish eyes. But, somehow, he had gotten much thinner and shorter.
“Are you Ernest?” I asked.
“No, I’m curious!” he exclaimed. “What are you doing?”
My hand dumbfoundedly reached into my pocket and took out the piece of paper. I gave it a light wave and thought hard. Had I looked at the grandfather clock, I would have seen that the pendulum had stopped; time never passed so slow, even in my writer’s block. I looked at the blank paper.
“Hemingway says, write drunk.”
Anahit Petrosyan is a young writer from Los Angeles and a graduate of CSU Northridge with a bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing. She is the author of the young adult novel, Chasing After, and the short stories, “Mother Wolf” (Northridge Review) and “Wanted Man” (Adelaide Magazine). She continues to write short stories and is working on her second novel.
Headshot: Arsen and Vicky Arsenyan
Photo Credit: Staff