The following is based on a true story.
Cars lined the block, as if barricading a treasure. To me, it felt that way. Coffee was a treasure. Especially this morning, when my eyes battled to close due to the sleep they so craved.
“Nothing there,” I murmured to myself. It was one of those days when you wish you didn’t have a car or could just as easily freeze the world for a moment and take care of your business. But I knew better than to dream of fantasies.
I came to the curb at the corner of the street, right where the coffee entrance was situated. Now at a standstill, a woman walking by flagged me down, prompting me to roll down my window.
“I was watching you as I walked up, and noticed you’re having a hard time finding a parking spot. Would you like me to get you something from inside?”
I was shocked that a stranger would make such an offer, but it was one of those mornings I was desperate, so I wasn’t about to question the offer.
“I would love that. Thank you so much. I’d like a Caffè latte with steam milk and foam. No sugar. And a large.”
“Caffè latte, good choice. If you circle just once more around the block, I should be back in time. The line doesn’t look too long.”
I smiled and gave a wave, forcibly turning the corner as I heard a honk come from behind. A smile swamped my face, as I was taken by the largess of a random woman. If only more people were like that, I thought to myself.
I turned another corner, feeling almost as if I had all the time on my hands and was sitting back, peacefully awaiting an exciting event about to begin.
Now about to turn towards the coffee shop, my eyes caught sight of the parking lot and a car pulling out. “Yes!” I said aloud, inching forward to slide in between the traffic and pull into the empty spot before it would be filled.
Twenty seconds later, I let out a relaxed sigh, having grabbed the spot. It had taken over five minutes of going round and round the block.
I clicked my seatbelt and stepped out, making my way towards the coffee shop, anticipating I would reach the woman before she got to me.
I was wrong. Her head bopped from one side to another, clearly looking for me. I raised my hand and waved, signaling her attention. “Over here!”
Her eyes caught me, as a bounce erupted in her step and a smile creased her cheeks. “One large Caffè latte with steam milk and foam; no sugar,” she gracefully articulated, handing me the cup. “Thank you so much,” I quickly replied, nearly cutting off the last of her words. “This was so nice of you. I never had someone do something like this for me.” The woman smiled.
“Adaline Bloom,” she said, sticking her hand towards me. “I’m glad to have helped.”
I blushed, instantly realizing that all this time I had been remiss to ask for her name. “Marilyn Lander,” I softly replied, grabbing her hand, and looking into her eyes which shimmered with a blueish color that reminded me of my mother.
I nearly froze in place, grabbed by the moment in time in which two strangers felt a visceral, unexplained connection.
“Well, it’s been a pleasure meeting you,” Adaline said, breaking the silence.
“Adaline, wait, wait,” I shot back, fumbling with my purse, and hoisting out a ten-dollar bill.
“The latte is on me,” she said, now accentuating her South-African accent, a graceful tone I couldn’t argue with.
“Please,” I pushed. “You’ve done me a favor.” “No, you’ve done me a favor,” she countered, gently lowering my hand.
“Marilyn, three months ago, I was diagnosed with a metastatic cancer. Ever since then, I told myself that with the time I have left, I will do as many acts of kindness to strangers as possible. If I won’t be around for the next decades, I want to fill as much of my life now with helping people.”
Tears welled in my eyes.
“Is everything alright?” Adaline invited me to explain, a soothing, sisterly touch whispering through her voice. I grabbed her without a word, an enveloping hug bringing us closer.
“Adaline,” I cried, wading through my stifling tears. “I am a cancer survivor.”
My words hung in the air, piercing the moment in time, freezing it.
We both looked at one another, holding our gaze as if we were long-lost sisters, meeting for the first-time over a cup of coffee.
“Pay it forward. Pay it forward,” Adaline repeated, a tinge of courage seizing her words.
“As often as possible, starting from today, commit to doing random acts of kindness for others. Pay it forward.”
I felt my tears beginning to dry upon my eyelids and cheekbone.
“For me,” Adaline whispered, a look of plea and prayer capturing her hopeful eyes. “In my merit, in my memory. If you can do this, you can help me live on even when I’m not here. My acts of kindness will live on through you.”
I grabbed her again, clutching her now even tighter, whispering, “For you, Adaline. For you…” my words soaring overhead.
We stood there, embraced around each other, hanging onto our mutual exchange of past and future, which so wistfully intertwined around one another.
And I thought coffee was the treasure I would gain this morning. I was wrong.
*Names have been changed.
- Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
- Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times
- Reading Mode