Believing or Seeing

Finch tells me:

The man sits at the table against the wall, the one that always fills last because it is under the air conditioning vent, and is almost always either too hot or too cold, depending on the season of the year. He is unremarkable to look at–black-rimmed glasses, black jeans, a brown leather jacket, maybe a schoolteacher or a writer for a free paper–but he is the center of gravity for her attention at the moment, and while she is trying to be subtle about it, Finch can’t take her eyes off of him.

Obviously, he’s insane. From his side of the table, he is having an animated conversation about (Finch thinks, but can’t be sure) Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald, and his voice rises and falls as the discussion melts into an argument and then dissolves back again into more civilized tones. He is on his fourth cup of coffee.

There is no one opposite him at the table. He is arguing with no one.

At first, Finch thinks that he is wearing a hands-free device in his ear, and that he is talking on his cell phone. As she refills his cup, once, twice, she sees that indeed he is not, and yet he only stops his discussion for a moment to thank her for the coffee, then returns to his conversation.

Meter. Form. Patterns.

For an hour, the man critiques (perhaps) the works of famous dead white authors (maybe). At one point, he pulls a pen from his pocket, scribbles something down on a napkin, and slides it across the table in front of his invisible partner at the table. After a moment, he slides the napkin back, folds it in half, and places it beneath the saucer his cup rests upon.

Later, he leaves her a five dollar tip when he exits the coffee shop.

Finch, clearing the table, notices the folded napkin, and holds on to it after bringing the coffee cup and saucer to the back room to be washed. Curious, she unfolds the napkin to see what the man has put there.

Be careful, the small, neat handwriting reads. I think the waitress is listening.

Beneath that message is a second, written in a different handwriting, loose and sloppy.

Those who believe, see. Those who see, cannot believe.

Finch saves the napkin and later gives it to me, because she knows that this is just the sort of thing that will make my day.

At home, I fold the napkin in half along the seam already made by the man, and then in half again, and then again, until it is tight and compact in its being. I put the napkin inside of the tea ball that makes up the Kitchen God’s head and latch it shut, then make a note on the calendar on the wall to take the napkin out again in three days’ time.

The Kitchen God is a slow reader, but he never forgets what he reads.

I envy him sometimes.

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  1. I want to know how the Kitchen God feels about the unseen conversationalist.

    • Kameko

       /  March 9, 2012

      He usually doesn’t have much to say about anything.

      He’s not one given to gossip.

  2. Love things like this. 🙂

    • Kameko

       /  March 13, 2012

      Then you have come to the right place!

      Stay as long as you’d like.

      We have cookies.

  3. cookies! hell yeah.


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