There’s just something about having a regular cafe. I’ve had mine for as long as I can remember—it’s a clean, minimalist space that specializes in delicious coffee drinks, and I’m in there what feels like every single day. Sometimes I get a filter coffee, but I always get an espresso, my drink of choice. I’m not the only regular—there’s a whole group of us, I guess—but I do enjoy a special rapport with the staff. Sometimes they even give me a comp’d drink, but no matter what I tip a dollar per beverage, and we always make a little bit of small talk.

“What do you have going on today?”
“Oh not much, you know, just…killing time. It’s busy in here today!”
“Yeah—busy is good. We like it that way.”

When I sit in my regular cafe there’s a laptop in front of me—always a laptop in front of me, another page to fill up, another message to send out into the ether, to the great beyond outside this room. All around me I see people on laptops, young and old, eyes fixed, every last one of us fully occupied by the screens in front of us, passing the time together. The coffee tastes especially good today.

He walked in looking lost, doe-eyed and bleeding from the head—a boy I didn’t recognize. Hardly worth losing track of my place in this email thread, but like the rest of the regulars I looked up for a moment, studying him.

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Limping, dripping blood, he shuffles to the front of the cafe and asks the barista,“Where am I?” A trail of bloody footprints lead from the front door, smeared from his dragged left leg, which was…disconnected, you could say, dangling from a grisly thread of sinew where the knee meets the femur. I could see specks of brain and bone from his gaping head wound; I went back to munching on my korvapuusti.

“What can we do for you?”, the barista asked. The soundtrack faded in and out.

“I’ll have…an espresso?”
“Single origin or blend?”
“The uh…the blend? Listen, do you have…a bar towel or something?”

A puddle of blood pooled at his feet. His bicycle socks were soaked in it. The barista motioned towards the unisex bathroom: “Make sure you knock first, but there’s a first aid kit inside—we’ll bring the drink out to your seat.” He nodded and limped off towards the unlocked door. The lights dimmed, flickered and drew level; the sink ran and the hands-free dryer hummed.

The door opened and he emerged, looking just like the rest of us—composed, clean, and ready to get to work. Young and alive and itching to make his mark, send his emails, write his jokes, chat through the daily tasks in Slack, file an invoice, demand a rewrite, and conquer the world beyond this room without ever leaving it. He took a seat at the back, pulled out a slim MacBook, and set himself up behind the glowing glass.

The barista dropped off his espresso, and asked: “Do you need anything else?”

“No, I should be alright here for awhile.”

He was one of us now. Another happy regular served.

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