She ignores the overwhelming pain that grips her heart as soon as she hears the news. He’s dead. The man behind the counter, always ready to greet her with a smile when she orders the usual (a cup of coffee with two teaspoons of sugar and a teaspoon of cream, extra hot), is gone.
She nods and turns to leave. The atmosphere inside the shop is unbearable, the weight of the news boring down on every single person who decided to visit and pay their respects for the old man. She’s in no way related to him. He just serves her coffee, the way she likes it.
It’s hard to imagine him gone, she thinks. He may not play a prominent role in her life but he’s always lingering in the background, a comforting extra holding her up with a cup of coffee. She tries to imagine a life without him but in her mind, his pudgy and sweaty face blurs behind her, a distant ghost, but somehow closer than the guy sitting next to her.
It may be because his smiles were familiar. Even his little mannerisms are familiar: the slight twitches of his right eye, his constant taps on his knee whenever a song plays in the background, his amused hoots when he’s teasing his younger colleagues, and the way he curls a finger around the longest piece of hair near his nape. He’s there.
He disappears in a blink of an eye, when yesterday he’s doing his thing behind his counter, staying in the present and not worrying about the next few hours.
She’s at the shop last night. In her hands was the last cup of coffee he’ll ever serve her.
They tell her he died of heart attack. She runs a hand through her face. The pain on the left side of her chest continues to grow, continues to pester her, as she trudges out into the cold, damp night.