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DEATH IN THE CAFE

 

MAY 2014

 

 

The Situation:

 

What happened in the cafe? Various people walked in and ordered coffee. During the period that took place between 13.00 and 13.15, a total of ten people entered the cafe, each alone. Five of them stayed and five bought their coffee to-go. This sounds quite trivial, but listen: there’s more.

 

1. Firstly, it should be pointed out that the cafe was one of those big chain cafes - the specific brand I will not mention by name, and location-wise? Well, all that I can reveal to you is that it was in a high street in South West London. Was it…wise? No it wasn’t wise at all. It was a chain cafe.

2. The two baristas who were working during the mentioned above time frame were two European women, both in their mid-twenties.

3. The manager of the branch, a Mr. Daniel S. Worthington, was not present, having actually been on the other side of town for ‘personal reasons’ (this was later verified by none other than Daniel himself).

4. The cafe itself was of relatively small size, not one of those big cafes...more compact...y’know what I’m talking about?...Capacity levels? Well, it could seal (or rather, hold - no that verb sounds ominous too - lets say, contain…) something like twenty people, but general average capacity never reached those levels, except during the harshest of morning commuter rush hours, being more frequently closer to a third or so full at consistent stretches of time.

5. Before one even considers the customers who entered the cafe from 13.00 to 13.15, one should make clear a slight predicament: even during what seems like such a small time frame, identifying just exactly who was in the cafe and what their respective duration  (in said time frame), was - or rather, is, unsurprisingly complex and plagued by contingencies that only I know of (and my knowledge of what took place is fundamentally obscured by prejudice and mood). First of all, there are the customers who had entered prior to this time: of these, little is known of them, except for one, a fifty three year old local resident, actually a ‘chippy’ named Pat who’d never been in the place before, strangely! He can’t remember much, and said, several days afterwards, “there was probably hardly anyone there.” Obviously this cannot be accepted at face value, but it does give us a general feel for what the atmosphere was like in the cafe; this can generally be agreed upon as being “quiet.”

 

The Customers

 

Samuel Jeffries had entered first - we can all agree on that. To go, or to stay? He stayed, and stayed throughout the given duration. Samuel was polite and considerate; a holy boy of seventeen, already a Eucharistic minister at his six form college. Saying this, he still found one of the baristas moderately attractive (and why not? He wasn’t a priest; at least, not yet), and the drink he ordered was a hot chocolate (“I will not be a slave to caffeine”, he often said to himself). There’s one - no two interesting facts that we learned about Samuel during the - well, I’ll better not say...but, yes - there’s two pieces of information that we at least, found slightly...disconcerting: he didn’t have a phone, and he was anti-television.

 

Lucy. Age - 15. Occupation - None (she’s still at school). She was there too. A young girl, sent home from school on account of feeling unwell, which explained her relatively silent and withdrawn manner. “To-go”, she said, then repeated it.

 

Marko, in all his benevolent and nasty glory, was there as well...why exactly, I’ll never know, but give him credit. A tall gangly adolescent on his lunch break - Marko: in a cafe. Marko: acne riddled and riddled with lazy eyes - one thing he was not was a riddle (“a half-wit” - former physical education teacher Mr Bean). “Marko’s Marko,” his best friend once famously said, and its true: Marko was, indeed, himself (but who isn’t these days?), and as to whether he found that satisfying or actually had some deep hidden existential frustration is, frankly, none of my business. Beloved by family and friends for his dry but practically non-existent ‘wit’, Marko ordered a cappuccino.

 

Ruth Flanagan walked in, feeling utterly lifeless, and she had good cause: she had just been fired (not to mention, her battery on her phone had drained -  now, of all days - just when she could done with calling a friend). She took out her laptop faster than you could say twenty six year old- pale- looking -former- goth -office -based -work -originally -from- the -midlands  “funny young lady”(former boss), and began both eating and drinking. If she started crying there and then, well...what would have happened? And does it matter :(not Ruth’s situation, but metaphorically speaking) do tears in as chain restaurant on a high street feel any better or worse than in other places? Or are they worse in places like this setting, as one is never sure if they are in a hyper version of reality, or a hyper version of illusion.

 

Who’s next? Sarah Jennings. Sarah’s a thirty three year old woman, (“first and foremost, I am what I am, and thats a woman”), a dabbler in protesting (“call me a liberal if you must...”), anti-racist anti-discrimination anti period- period? Har har, very funny Giles (“He’s an idiot”). Anti-government. Anteater? Hmm. Sarah had gone to state school, then university (“Leicester bitches!”) There she had majorly gained a perspective on culture and society (“Its all fucked…”), and she had mildly lost some of her sexual inhibitions (“I wouldn’t mind being a nun, y’know, after all that”). What did you learn Sarah? - About your time spent at Leicester University? “I was an alcoholic for about three years, and its not fun.” She gave a detailed account of her boozy fresher’s experience to her ex-boyfriend’s friend’s girlfriend, but often what she said wasn’t strictly true - or at least, she certainly embellished what she said (something like a mild case of alcohol poisoning over a period of seventy two hours compiled with a rather more sustained ‘fresher ethos’ during the second term of her first year as an undergraduate would be more accurate in terms of the “alcoholism” she frequently spoke of, or celebrated). Sarah, can I ask you a question? Actually, no; this isn’t the time, especially considering what happened. Sarah sat down with her coffee and flicked through her vast social networking apparatus - we somewhat presumptuously suspect she was “flicking through her social networking apparatus”, for she was laughing (“I laugh like a hyena”), and smiling (“Sarah, you have an infectious smile, has anyone ever told you that? Go on, give us a kiss” - “Bazz!”) but at the same time, there was a certain indifference about her aura (“this country’s a piece of shit”), watching and analysing the other customers. Upon seeing Samuel Jeffries blush quite sweetly at one of the baristas, and then leave his hot chocolate at the counter and sit down, only to get back and collect his drink, crimson now with more embarrassment, she came to the conclusion that we’re all morons, herself included, which is...perhaps noble of her - to include herself, but at least with Sarah, despite all her..faults (“I’m mental, I am”), at least with her, we had someone...on the ball.