An Exploration in “The Social Anxiety Filled Coffee Shop”

By Nitya Uthayakumar, TIWP Student

This is the only coffee shop in town that has absolutely no seating, so you are bound to be stuck in front of someone at a table, awkwardly trying to mind your business and get work done. For some people that sounds amazing, a way to spice up their day alongside their spice latte and make a new friend. I feel like this coffee shop did that purposefully, like they chose to have just enough seats to accommodate everyone but sparse enough to force tortured souls—sucked into a world of online dating and group chats—to actually talk in the most raw and realistic form.

For people like me, it’s like a punishment being stuck with a stranger, sharing a coffee table, trying to not make it more awkward than it is. It’s hard enough for me to leave the house. All I want is a simple coffee and seclusion. However my mind is a hypocrite: I want to be alone but also I work best when I’m in this coffee shop. Sometimes I’m working on a drawing of a random stranger but other times it’s just what I find beautiful. Sometimes my mind just spills onto the page like I carelessly knocked over a paint can and it somehow made a masterpiece.

But instead of paint today, it’s my coffee, spilling only a little but enough to ruin my drawing which was coming out beautifully. The person in front of me noticed how I was cursing under my breath, like any other civilized person who spilled coffee all over an amazing piece of art.

“Here, let me help,” the man in front of me says.

“No, thank you, I’m fine,” I snap at him. I’ll admit, that morning I woke up realizing how close my deadline was, making me anxious and short-tempered, especially because my drawing was now covered in coffee. However, despite being extremely rude and snarky, he still walked around the coffee table and helped me clean up the mess.  “There’s no need for you to help me, I have this under control,” I say with annoyance. He ignored me and continues to use paper towels to absorb the coffee on the coffee table.

“It’s a shame you dropped your coffee on your notebook-”

“And it’s a shame you think I need your pity,” I interject.

“Well someone’s awfully pleasant,” he says sarcastically. “If you were with someone besides me they would’ve been fed up with your attitude in a second,” he adds.

“And what makes you so special?” I ask, becoming more agitated.

“When you grow up in the circumstances I did, you learn a thing or two about patience and kindness, even with hurtful people,” he answers.

“But isn’t that just stupid?” I ask. “How could you be kind to someone who is malicious? They’re just going to abuse your kindness.”

“I’m a writer,” he says out of the blue.

“Okay, and…” My voice lingers, waiting for him to explain the importance of that.

“Hear me out:  I’m writing about a little boy who lived where I lived—in Iraq. When you grow up surrounded by war, your suffering teaches you to love everything and everyone a little bit more,” he explains. “Sure, not every offensive or vicious person has justification for their behavior, but some people just act hurtful because they, too, have been hurt and nobody has taken the time to understand them,” he says.

I felt bad because I am taking in what he’s saying but also thinking about finished my sketch. “That’s actually pretty wise,” I say. “Thanks for the talk, genuinely, but I have to finish a drawing as soon as I can,” I sigh, running my hands through my hair.

“Well…” He pauses. “I am having writer’s block,” he says with a little smile.

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