Coffee for One, at the Alcove Table: Part 1 | Sunday Observer
Coffee Shop Stories…

Coffee for One, at the Alcove Table: Part 1

28 February, 2021

Coffee is never just coffee. That’s what I’ve noticed in my years of working in the coffee shop sector in Colombo. Coffee is nothing like tea. As a statement in Colombo’s culture, I mean. ‘High Tea’ at any of the top posh hotels is something else, and it is quite a statement, but then it’s not just the tea, it’s a host of eats and the whole label of ‘High Tea’. Everything other than High Tea is probably low tea. Or at least it is certainly ‘not high’ tea. But there is no high coffee. Ever heard of high coffee? I have been wondering about it. We don’t have such a thing here either. The first really successful coffeehouse chain to begin as a local brand-Coco Lounge. Really proud to be a part of this place. It’s going well and going places. And I’m in for the long haul, being our very first and so far only, female barista!

Really irks me when I see how some people come here so dolled up, I mean both men and women, and they do this almost well rehearsed bit of louder than necessary greeting, going kissy, kissy on the cheeks. So pretentious with some, and seems like they do it for the little fleck of drama they make for the moment. Why don’t they join a theatre group for God’s sake?! But then that is what coffee is to some. No it’s not tea. It’s not that sober. That is why it’s not ‘just coffee’. Coffee is never ‘just’. There is always some motive behind it when more than one person sits at a table for coffee. Always. There is some motive when it is more than one at a table at a coffeehouse. Coffee can be political.

The ‘alcove table’

He’s here, seated at the alcove table, again, as he usually does. But like almost all days, it’s only him. Sitting by himself at the ‘alcove table’. So far- at least. The table for two in the little alcove with its own window is quite a favourite among couples. And it’s usually the spot he likes. The ‘alcove table’. He reserves it in advance through a direct message on Twitter or Instagram. Most times it’s just him. Coffee for himself at the alcove table meant ideally for two. But there have been those times he has sat there with a date.

But it’s always once. I mean, I have never seen the same girl come to sit with him again. But then there haven’t been that many either. Just three. Three dates. Three as far as I have witnessed. And for the past four years, I have been here handling the reservations that come to us via social media. He’s actually one of the first who started making table reservations via social media. But of course, since it is the company social media accounts from this end, he doesn’t know that it’s me, the one and only barista girl who reserves the ‘alcove table’ for him, each time. Sigh...

This guy is not on Facebook though. Weird. Just Twitter and Instagram as far I have been able to track. Unless he is under some different identity on Facebook. Highly probable. Stalking girls online under some different identity. Just for the kick of it, I suppose.

No doubt. Probably gets a ton of kicks stalking the fair and slim beauties on Facebook. Under a different identity with a whole fake bio and history and making himself out to be some big shot. Probably asks them if they like to have coffee with him at Coco Lounge, at the ‘alcove table’. Saying that he will reveal who he really is, and what he does and if she would like to get to know the ‘real him’ and take a gamble on a ‘semi-mystery’ date. Probably says rubbish like that to naive looking fair slim beauties he thinks he can lure in here to sit with him at the ‘alcove table’. And then gets shot down with a flat NO! Huh! Serves him right. Ha, ha, ha! Wonder how many he has actually tried to ask over here. But he’s had only three dates here so far.


Doesn’t come here with a laptop though, unlike most solo comers to our Lounge. A book or two at the most. Never more than two books. Usually fiction. Poetry too at times. But I have noticed some biographies as well once in a while. Michael Ondaatje’s books make an appearance somewhat regularly. No idea what those books are about. Fiction, I know. But no idea what the stories are. But he seems to like them a lot. Once saw him come with a book called The Cat’s Table by Michael Ondaatje. He was mesmerised by some of the things he read in it. I could tell by the look on his face. Seated there by himself his face locked in meditation at the pages opened before him, and then gazing out of the window as though he was trying to fly away in his thoughts to wherever place that the book was probably describing.

The book cover had the picture of a ship on it. I doubt the book has actually anything to do with cats. And when did cats have tables? They certainly don’t come in here and order coffee. Sigh... Either way, he looked out of the window in such a way as though he was drifting off to some long lost love. Maybe that was it. Wonder who it was he was thinking about. To make him have a look like what he had on his face that evening, when the last soft golden sunlight was getting ready to dim down and make way for sunset. Sigh...must have been someone very special.

Coffeeshop poets

He’s something of a cat I suppose. Sitting by himself at the alcove table. Quiet and pensive. As though he is secretly planning something while looking all saintly and innocent. Cats are sneaky creatures. Unlike dogs. Dogs are trustworthy and open about what they have to show. This fellow is something of a cat. Reading, sipping coffee by himself and making notes on the notebooks he brings. Yes, the reading books also scome with notebooks. Not just one, two or three notebooks sometimes. Maybe he is trying to be a writer? Poetry maybe? So many people sit at coffeehouses and write poetry.

They write what they feel then and there. And then they post it online with a photo of the handwritten verse next to their half drunk coffee. Coffee shop poets of Colombo. The coffeehouse sector certainly created a whole huge bunch of unpublished poets during the last decade. Coffee shop poets.

Could be one of those, except he doesn’t snap photos of what’s written on the notebooks. Or at least I haven’t noticed him snapping any. But if he has, he certainly hasn’t posted anything of that kind on social media. I check each and every single of his posts on Twitter and Instagram. No poems so far. Maybe it’s private poetry. Private poems about the girls who have sat with him at the ‘alcove table’ but never returned to sit with him again.

Maybe. Sigh...May be its best that I don’t see them. I follow all his social media accounts and look at all his posts. I comment whenever I can. Not too much as though I’m trying to get his attention or something.

But you know, just casual comments, just to let him know I exist, and that I follow all his social media accounts. But he doesn’t follow me back. Not good enough to be followed? Not good enough to be acknowledged outside of my existence in any space other than the Coco Lounge? Because I’m a ‘Serving girl’/ ‘Waitress’? Sigh…Who knows what goes on in that head of his.

[To be continued…]