He seemed to appear from nowhere. One minute I was sitting at the long, low table, drinking wine with some old high-school friends, and the next minute he was there.
I didn't see him arrive in his too-big checked suit. I didn't see him lay his cane down, resting on the bench seat beside him. But I glanced up from conversation and there he was - a wizened old gentleman, hunched at our table. It was 11 o'clock at night.
I stared, astonished. I was at a city bar, with music pumping, and lipsticked women chatting to business-shirted men. There were a few silver-haired men in their forties or fifties, but there were no Zimmer frames. This man who had joined our group was well into his eighties. I nudged my friend Kylie, who is divorced, and murmured that there was a new member at the table. She grinned and quipped, "I know you guys try to set me up with any man who is actually breathing, but I'm not sure that this guy is!" I followed her gaze. She was right! The octogenarian was leaning off at an angle, eyes drooping. Was he having a stroke? Had his heart stopped? Was he..... dead? I moved to get up, but just as I did, Mr Checked Suit sat upright. He blinked, and resumed examining his hands.
"I wonder if anyone has taken his order?", I worried out loud to Liz. I had only just met Liz, but I had already discovered she was smart and kind and brave. Liz didn't waste time worrying. The intrepid young Liz marched over, and sat down next to the elderly fellow. I watched as they conversed. Liz eventually disappeared into the bar, returning a few minutes later with a cup of coffee.
Liz had discovered that the suited man lived eight blocks away. He took his coffee with 5 sugars. When he gave Liz the money to buy the coffee, he had pulled out a wad of fifty dollar notes, and begun peeling off bills, telling Liz to buy drinks for herself and her friends. Liz had, of course, declined.
When Liz had asked the barman for a coffee with 5 sugars, the barman had cried, "Oh no! I forgot Allen's coffee!" The barman told Liz that Allen owned a huge chunk of nearby inner city land, and that he came to the bar every night for a cup of coffee.
I like to know that there are always these lovely quirky souls in the world who refuse to fit the stereotypes. I like to know that Allen can wander down at almost midnight and drink coffee at a city bar, where the barman knows his name, and knows how many sugars to put in his coffee.
I like that people are endlessly surprising, and that there truly is magic in everyday life.