I come to this place every Monday or at least every other Monday to have a cup of coffee and a piece of bread with butter. It is one of the old diner, probably been there for about ten or twenty years, or even more. An Irish Cafe’ and Restaurant just along Roosevelt Avenue, 61st Street in Woodside, Queens… is always a cool place to hang out before heading out to work.
One spring Monday morning when I came in, this familiar young Hispanic guy, greeted me with a smile and said, “Good morning ma’am. How can I help you today?” I smiled and I ordered my freshly brewed coffee and bread with butter right away. This young man, already knew me by face, for I have been there oftentimes, but we never get to introduce each other’s name. That’s why he always calls me ma’am. “Here’s your coffee, ma’am.” He handed me the cup of coffee along with packets of sugar and creamer.
For some reason, this day, I felt something strange. I would normally watch the news on television once I start drinking my coffee but this time, I just stared at the painting on the wall. As I looked closely, I realized that the painting was rendered with watercolor. It wasn’t just a painting, it has a story in itself. I secretly took a snap shot of it and made sure nobody saw me, not to mention the camera on the ceiling. I took the pictures anyway.
Then, the Hispanic guy came to me and ask me how was everything. I replied, “Coffee is great, I love it.” Then I asked, “ Did you know who did that painting on the wall?” “ I really don’t know ma’am. All I know is that, it has been there before I came working here.” He answered me with his Hispanic accent.
“Really? How long have you been working here?”
“I had been here for eight years now,” he replied.
“That’s quite a while,” I said. He said yes, and turned around to welcome a costumer who just came in.
My attention shifted from the painting on the wall to this guy, all of a sudden. I raised my arm to get his attention. “Can I have another refill of coffee please?” I asked. “Yes. ma’am, you ask for more, I’ll give you more.” He replied with a smile on his face as he stared at me. I smiled back. He poured another cup of coffee and gave it to me.
“So you had been working here for eight years, did you like your job?” I asked him.
“Hhmm, hmmm…” There was a long pause. “You know, I like it though. At least I get to sustain myself,” he replied. He then looked at me as if, questioning why did I ask that kind of question.
I noticed some sort of discontent in his response. His face seemed to be saddened, and It took him few seconds before he answered my question. I stared at him trying to analyze his gestures and facial expression. To me, it looked like he was being forced to work on a job that he didn’t quite like, and so just for him to able to sustain himself, he has to do it, no matter what.
I caught him blankly staring on space before he looked at me, and said, “Please let me know if you need more coffee.” I nodded my head with a smile and he went off to serve another costumer. I sipped my second serving of coffee and finished the bread. While I was watching him in a distant, I recalled myself having a conversation with my teacher.
It was a Sunday evening and I came to my teacher’s apartment. We sat in his living room and we talked for hours about life while we ate, and had some drinks. I remembered I told him I wanted to become an Artist, or an Architect. He said, “Work hard no matter what, and you will achieve it.” He took my hand and held it and said, “Only you, can make your dream come true.” And then my teacher closed his eyes and held my hands tighter while he prayed silently. I felt the subtle vibration throughout my entire body. My teacher opened his eyes and then said, “Go on, you will travel in some parts of the world, and achieve your dream.” I looked at him with a smile and said “Yes, I will.” Although, I wasn’t quiet sure what he meant, and how I am going to do that.
“More coffee?” the guy asked me again. “I think I’m good, thanks.” I replied. I looked at the painting again. The color obviously seemed to be fading and the frame needed to be cleaned off, the dust. I realized that, though the painting had been hanging on the wall for a long time, it is conveying some kind of message to whoever is coming in, to dine.
It was a painting of the diner probably during the year when it was newly opened, maybe about twenty to forty years ago. A picture of a man sweeping on the sidewalk and two waitresses talking just outside the entrance door of the cafe’ caught my attention. I wonder who these people were in that painting.
I began to think that the painting had been hanging there, waiting for a person sipping a cup of coffee, to even look at it, and appreciate it. It is longing to be admired and be given recognition of how beautifully it was being rendered, reflecting its own history by the way of relating the story on how it was being artistically painted, yet nobody probably did that.
My recollection was so vivid as I thought of the conversation with my teacher, and it related to my present encounter with this Hispanic guy. I began to think that this guy is wanting to do something other than what he is doing now, as a waiter. In my observation, he is wanting to do something he really loved to do, that he has a dream he needs to achieve. Whatever it is, I don’t know.
With his hard work eight hours a day, five days a week, and probably not given a just compensation, he is wanting for anybody to even appreciate what he’s doing… like that painting on the wall. As simple as it is, and how simple the words can be uttered, it would mean a lot to him, and would bring smile and light to his heart.
While he was preparing something for another costumer, I told him, “You know what, you are doing a great job.” The moment I said that, I saw a sigh of relief, and for him to be able to hear that finally someone did appreciate what he’s doing, it was a big deal for him. He said, “Thank you, ma’am.” He replied with a big smile in his face.
“I’ve been here for quiet a while and we always have a quick conversation but I never asked what your name was. May I know your name?” I asked him finally. “My name is Pedro,” he said.
“You know, this will be my last visit here, Pedro.” I told him. He looked at me with a question, “Why?”
“I am moving to another place.” I said.
“Really? I won’t be able to see you anymore then.” Pedro was quiet for a while, then continued, “Well, I am wishing you all the best ma’am, Have a great day.”
“Thank You very much Pedro, and have a great day as well.” I paid my bill and left the diner towards the subway.
Suddenly, I felt this bliss and contentment in my heart. I just had a great lesson for the day and most of all, I made Pedro smile. 😉
(A Morning Smile at a Diner. C*.2105. All rights Reserved)