A Cup of Coffee

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2012-01-04
  • Publisher: Author Solutions
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Walter is a scientist who has been tragically stripped of the most meaningful people in his life, yet he cannot allow himself to believe that the human mind-the human soul-is forever lost in death, as some would have it. His mind equally buckles at the thought of eternal torment, and in his search for truth, he discovers something unexpected. Walter's almost-limitless imagination propels him far beyond mere science or religion. He argues like a scientist. He clearly understands religion's deeper meanings, yet his solution to this age-old conflict is ultimately very simple and very clear. He has learned how to forgive, trust, love, and then move on in hope. The rewards, he finds, are infinite.


By the time I had gotten up and stumbled into the kitchen, the overpowering aroma of fresh eggs and coffee was washing over me like a tidal wave. Roxanne was dressed, had already eaten, and was on her way out of the house. Her work did not end on Fridays as mine did. She had a business to run, and Saturdays were busy days—especially this Saturday. There would be clients coming in to pick up their gowns for the evening banquet, as well as her regular customers—and she would be taking off part of the afternoon, herself. She had a lot to do. It was a fabulous breakfast, guaranteed to keep me from getting hungry until dinnertime: a chili omelet with cheese, sour cream, and fresh tomatoes. On the side were garnishes of cilantro, onion, and avocado. I love avocado. It wasn't always that way, though. I was raised mid-western, and I had never even heard of an avocado until college. It became something of an acquired taste, at first, thanks to my more adventurous wife. It was also one of those foods that my doctor could approve of without reservation, so I learned to like them. Now I love them. Perhaps it's the delicateness of their flavor—something that grows upon a person with age, like the depths of appreciation that one acquires for a beautiful woman as she ages. I took my place at the kitchen table. "Good-morning, Love," she whispered in my ear. The look on her face, the way she rolled her eyes at me: I knew she meant it—that they weren't just words. I could not help myself. I grabbed her arm as she passed by and kissed her hand. She giggled and pulled back, but not free. "I love you, Roxie." "I know you do," she winked. "What would you do without me?" For one nanosecond, the seriousness of that question caught me unprepared, and I could feel my very soul being torn asunder. For one nanosecond, the thought of it sent me spiraling into a bottomless pit of nothingness, and I clung to her all the tighter. I don't know if she understood it or not, but I was loathe to let her go—to see her leave. The very thought of a life without her—even for the space of a few hours—was almost more than I could handle. What was happening to me? At that, she began giving me my marching orders for the day as she poured me a cup of coffee, and then kissed me back—on the back of my neck where it really tickles and drives me nuts, and then she left. Suddenly I felt alone—really alone. Her presence—her playfulness—all was gone. After having her attached to me like mistletoe to an oak tree all night long, I felt totally naked—alone—even while savoring the end result of her affection and thoughtfulness. I was beginning to understand Walter and his coffee. The silver-framed picture of Rebecca and Teddy had been imbedded into my visual cortex, and I could see them as easily and clearly as if I was standing in Walter's office looking at them. I reflected upon their significance and upon Walter and his losses. I wondered how he had ever learned to cope with death. Uncontrollably tears began streaming down my face again, dripping onto my food. I could not help myself. The face I saw was no longer Rebecca's. It had become Roxanne's. So this is what it was all about. My subconscious was beginning to consider possibilities that it had never even noticed before, or if it had, retreated from them in terror. I was getting older, and there were things I could no longer ignore—things horrible and frightening. At one point I had to stop eating altogether and just let my emotions have their way with me. I had not sobbed like that in more years than I could remember—since my mother died. I was still thinking about Roxanne and me—about Walter and his daughter, Rebecca—as I finished eating my breakfast, rinsed out my dishes, and put them away in the dishwasher. I could not linger, however. I had places to go and things to do. I was forced to put those painful thoughts aside and focus on the tasks at hand. Was this how Walter did it—one episode at a time? I didn't think I liked the sound of that, or the feel of it. I wondered. Soon I was in the car and driving down to Frank's Barber Shop for that haircut I had promised myself. The warm autumn sun was streaming down on me as I parked the car and entered the barbershop. It was a shop whose time had come and gone. A spiraling barber pole turned slowly in the yellow glint of morning, giving the place the look and feel of something from yesteryear, now yellowed and tarnished with age. It was as though I was looking at an old sepia-toned photograph that had oxidized and yellowed over time, but it was real. It was still there. It reminded me of my boyhood days when my father would give me a buck-and-a-quarter and tell me to go get a haircut. Now, for the first time in my life, I could feel the years creeping up on me, overtaking me as they had him, and it somehow scared me all over again. I tried to put those thoughts out of my head as I entered the shop, but they just would not go away. And Frank did not help. "Good-morning, Frank. Thanks for fitting me in on such short notice." "Ah, Dr. Dubois, my old friend, how good to see you," Frank was smiling as he emerged from behind the newspaper he was reading while waiting for me. "Oh, and by the way, Doctor, while I'm thinking about it, thank you for the referral, too." "Call me, Philip, Frank. God. You're embarrassing me." Frank was an older man with hair that was nearing the end of its transformation into white. His skin was now paper thin and frangible—delicate as ancient parchment. He was well passed any sort of conventional retirement age, but he kept the barbershop open, anyway. If nothing else, it gave him a place to go during his lonely days, but as if by some needless, additional sort of punishment being meted out, his business was failing, too—it had been that way for some time. I had stayed with him, I suppose, simply because I liked him, and he still did a credible job of barbering. "So you've met Walter, have you?" "Yes. Yes," he spoke slowly. "He came in yesterday afternoon. Fine man. Fine man. Said you two had just been to Bergman's, and he figured that if he was going to go that far out on the proverbial limb—to rent a tuxedo—he might just as well finish the job with a good haircut, too—said you suggested my place as the best place in town. I thank you for that, Philip. Times just aren't what they used to be, you know. I remember when we had all three chairs going and customers lined up against the wall." He gestured with a sweep of his hand towards the row of empty chairs. "There's nobody here anymore." "Well, that's not quite true, Frank." I patted him on the back, and looked squarely at him, making sure we had mutual eye contact. "You're still here, and that's why I'm still here." Frank laughed lightly—self-consciously. "I came here to see you, Frank, not some ghost from the past. You're still a good man—and a damned good barber, but mostly, you're an even better friend." "I really do appreciate that, Philip." Frank's eyes misted. "Barbering just isn't what it used to be, you know, what with the changing hairstyles and all. Used to be, men went to one place and ladies went to another. Now it's all done together in the same shop, mostly, and they're calling them hair stylists. I guess I didn't see it coming, and I didn't keep up. Still, I can't complain. Thanks to support from friends like you, I'm actually busier than I need to be, but it's good to keep working, nonetheless. There's a comfort in routines, you know."

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