Three Tables

There were three free tables in the café. I saw them from the door when I stepped in. I was going have a cup of coffee and read the newspaper. It was my favorite café. They had big mugs instead of those small coffee cups that you find at most places around here. I had never understood why people used those small cups. After just three or four sips you just had to get a refill right in the middle of your best coffee moment.

At my grandmother’s place the cups used to be even smaller. It was one of her favorite traditions to circle around the coffee table, her favorite coffee pot in one hand, collecting odd stray cookie crumbs from the tablecloth with the other, asking people if they wanted to have more. It’s the best roast you can find in the local store. I hope I didn’t make it too strong for you.

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I chose the table closest to the door on the left. There was an elderly lady with a pompous hairdo in the next table. Her coffee had spilled all over the tray and she tried to dry it out with a paper napkin. I went to the counter to get my coffee and offered her some of my napkins on the way back. I had stacked a few extra ones on my tray just for her, but she said she didn’t need any. But thank you anyway. That was very kind of you.

I took a seat, set the newspaper next to my coffee and started reading about Afghan refugees. I wasn’t through the first paragraph when the door opened and people hustled by so close that I was afraid my coffee would spill, too. I stood up, picked up my paper and my coffee, nodded and smiled at the lady in the next table, and found my way to the next free table at the back.

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I had never sat that far back before even though I had spent quite a few afternoons in that café. I had barely sat down when realized why. I had incautiously entered the talker-zone. Nevertheless, I decided to ignore it and continued with the Afghans …Some 248 people have been deported from Europe to Afghanistan… …Do you have a new hair cut? You look a bit different somehow… …60-65 percent of whom were deported involuntarily… …And after Rome we drove to Pisa. Have you ever been there?… …At the risk of persecution… 

All of sudden a plate smashed on the ground. Dozens of sharp white chips spread out on the tiles and the muffin bounced at my feet. I was so surprised that for a few seconds I just stared at the muffin, thinking that it must be a blueberry muffin, until I realized that since it had landed right next to my shoe, maybe I should pick it up. I looked around for a napkin but there wasn’t any. I quickly glanced across the hall and saw the stack at the first table. Right then a young woman with a baby on one arm appeared at my feet, reaching for the muffin, cheeks burning red, tears in her eyes. Her baby wouldn’t stop crying and it looked like she felt she didn’t have enough hands. I asked if I could help but there was only a short sob and she was gone. A waiter came by. Would you please kindly move to that table over there. Better clean this all up before someone gets hurt. 

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There I was sitting at my third table, by the huge windows looking out into a park with tall bright-green lindens. I glanced across the entryway and saw the lady with the pompous hairdo, next to my napkins. I smiled and nodded at her. She didn’t. At that point all the tables were full, except the ones surrounded by the broken plate. I still had some coffee in my mug, it wasn’t even cold yet, and right next to it was the article I wanted to finish. …A few hundred protesters in targeted locations across Helsinki objected the deportations…

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