Yesterday was intense.
It was a multiple coffee kind of day that even my coffee needs a coffee. My fingers never stop typing words; I was able to finish 3 articles and edit 2 reports. My brain tricked me that I have lots of energy so later that day I attended an event.
As the day finally comes to an end, I was completely exhausted. My energy sapped out of me. Last stop before heading home, I visited a little café few blocks away from my work place to grab a medium Caramel Macchiato.
Thursdays for me are always the best day to visit this local café because the crowd is a mix of working and artsy people who seem productive even when they’re just hanging out. I also loved the place; the interior of the café is eclectic with mismatched couches and chair as well as vintage objects on modern shelves. Because of the absence of Wi-Fi, the café in vibes an atmosphere of a traditional coffee shop as it encourages conversation and some old fashion newspaper and book reading.
So while having coffee yesterday and catching up on my reading, a man sitting adjacent to the counter commented: “Seems like you found your little nook here”. Before I could react, he jumped up from his table with his coffee and moved to join me. He was tall with neatly cut hair, stubble beard and small kind eyes.
Though without invitation, he sat down and introduced himself as “Ivan”. He looked at me keenly as though he knew me a long time ago. So I racked my brain for a minute or two, trying to recall his name and where I met him; but I could not remember anything at all. I stared at him and with an effort, I went on innocently, “You resemble the man in an advertisement…umm”.
As if he read my thoughts, he said quietly, “I’m Ivan your friend in pre-school, remember?”
That revelation left me speechless, I never thought that time would come in which I’d see myself literally playing the part of Sara (Kate Beckinsale) in Serendipity. Well, to get you started, Ivan was my close friend way back in kindergarten. His family moved in the United States when we were in sixth grade. The night before he set out, he proposed to me and promised to write and return. But he never did. So seeing him again in a secluded local coffee shop after more than twenty years of not hearing from him is kind of surprising.
Well, Ivan and I talked about life and what we are doing; I have learned that Ivan is well traveled as he is a pilot in one of the best airlines in the world. He showed me a couple of pictures he’d taken in places he had been to. We talked about his work of how challenging and exciting it was but at the same time tiring because of the unpredictable work hours, long duty periods, and circadian disruptions as well as insufficient sleep. He also told me about his daughter of how beautiful she was with big blue eyes and jet black hair but he never mentioned about his wife.
Our conversation was natural, deep and insightful skipping the necessary pleasantries. There was still this effortless chemistry like the kind we had when we were kids.
As the antiquated café turns dark and vaguely disquieting with the flickering light of the table’s votives, Ivan asked me a question, “What do you think of the phrase “what if?”
His question made me introspective. Not sure of why he would ask me that question but I answered if from a point of view of a writer. As I continued, “For writers, the phrase “what if” is the first step to generating story ideas like an intriguing question that opens up to infinite possibilities transforming the mundane world into imaginative realm…”
As I was about to end my excruciatingly long hypothetical explanation on the phrase “what if”, I threw back the question to him and he simply responded, “I was thinking, What if we ended up together? What if I did write to you and pursue you instead”
There was a long silence that neither one of us wanted to break. Both of us turned quiet and reflective. What is good about face to face conversation is you hear the inflection, and you see the emotion. I could tell from the way he said things that he had been wallowing in hatred for so long that he had forgotten what love felt like. He must have a failed marriage or is separated or in the process of separating. I am not sure but one thing I am sure is his marriage is on the rocks.
As if planned to happen exactly at that moment: the cafeteria played Nora Jones’ don’t know why, right on cue, I asked him: “Do you remember what you used to say to me whenever I flunked my exams?”
He answered with a faint smile, “Yeah… that things happened for a reason and there is always a chance to make things right.”
I nodded and continued “Well, like in a writer’s point of view, “What if”, is a phrase that opens doors of possibilities. We can get carried away because of the promising adventure and compelling angle of story but part of writing process is also to choose the right possibilities and save the story from being wrecked”.
He quickly picked up with a comment, “If it is meant to be. It will be.” I nodded. He also nodded with unspoken agreement.
As the cafe is about to close, Ivan and I bid our goodbyes.
“I hope my daughter will be like you because I named her after you” he said proudly.
I smiled “I hope she grows up to be a woman with vision and better than I”.
As we parted ways and I watched him disappear in the pavement. I remember our conversation nearly word for word and then, I realized that what we had at the café was one of the absolute best and deepest conversations I have had. ‘What if’, two beautiful words with endless possibilities but these words also serve as a precaution if it calls one to sell your soul for one fleeting moment. Well, I have proven that we don’t meet people by accident. People are meant to cross our path for a reason. And sometimes the things we can’t change end up changing us to be a better person.
One thing I have also realized is that “Serendipity” happens just like how serendipitous our meeting was.