Wednesday, November 2, 2011


It was almost eight and we were running late as usual. But the need for coffee beckons, so we dashed into the corner shop buzzing with caffeine, sounds and people.

I turned to scan the room as the line looked infinitely long. That's when I spotted him sitting on the bench just behind the line, studying.

I couldn't tell his age exactly but lines crawled across his forehead and around his downcast eyes. His pristine gray pinstripe suit stood out against the rain forest backdrops and the techno colors around him. A large textbook highlighted in a multitude of colors spread out on the tiny table. Large green plugs filling his ears and index cards filled with scribbles balanced by the edge of the table.  Highlighters, used tea bags, glasses and a pocket translator managed to find and fill any remaining spaces. 

The world around him rocked on.  Two teenagers were necking in a nearby booth, legs stretched out so far that they kicked his table occasionally.  The Batista knocked portafilters incessantly against the sink, punctuating the caffeine filled air with stainless steel rhythms and drums. The murmuring crowd sang base in low hums, not swayed by the occasional giggle or sharp exclamations. 

The old man however, devoured words and knowledge as if a soldier fighting in the battleground of time.  My friend urged me to prod him for answers. So I did.

"Excuse me, may I ask what are you studying?"

It took me a few tries to get his attention.  But when I did, he pulled out his ear plugs and smiled at us. He turned the book to show us the cover, explaining it is about "property law".

"Oh, so you are studying real estate?"

"hm, oh no. Law, I am studying for the California bar exam." He said definitively, with a nod to cinch the deal.

"What?"  I still couldn't quite believe my own ears.

"Yes, I am studying to be a lawyer." He nodded again, smiling ear to ear.

"Why?"  I asked without thinking.

"Because I like to learn new things.  I already have six degrees, but learning new things, " He pointed to his head, "keep my brain working well."  He rotated his hands to show the workings of a brain (or anything for that matter), required constant movement.

We pondered over these words, unable to come up with any reply other than "wow."

He read through our puzzled and hesitant expressions and announced the next question on our minds.  "Do you know how old I am?"

We shook our heads.

"I am seventy two years old."  He spread out the fingers of his hands and smiled again, while we stood with our jaws dropped.

He dug into a small black wallet laid next to his translator, and took out his business card.  It said, XXX, medical PHD, among other credentials. 

I looked at his face again, speechless.  Minutes ago, we were questioning whether we were too old "to learn new tricks", commiserating the rapid passage of time while never finding enough of it in the present.

We walked out together in silence, losing interest in our coffee, deep in thoughts.

"Inspiring, wasn't he?"  one of us said.

We blinked and let the night air carry away the thoughts that weighted on us, driving into a world without limit, at least for the moment.


  1. Oh that's lovely. The details of the coffee shop were beautifully portrayed and what an inspiring man - I'll try to stop moaning about getting old and think of something new to do. Thank you.

  2. Love it! A great post. I kept finding things I liked - "The murmuring crowd sang base in low hums, not swayed by the occasional giggle or sharp exclamations. " but then found I couldn't just pick one or two bits because it all flowed together. I will get caught up on your posts soon. :)

  3. You describe your settings so well; your writing always transports me.
    And this is an amazing story! What an inspiring man. Wow!

  4. Great post, I really like it. I could see you talking to him.

  5. Great post and what an inspiring man. I hope your world is able to remain without limit. I plan to use your post to help keep my world that way. At least, I will try.

  6. Lovely, well written and very inspiring story. Thank you for sharing this, it gave me much needed motivation for studying.

  7. Life is what you make of it, isn't it? Gosh, people like that make me feel like a slacker. Tomorrow I start anew with another project!

  8. You tell a lovely story Shopgirl. What an incredible gentleman? Inspiring to come across someone who loves to keep learning.

  9. I've nominated you for award for being a great writer and supportive blogger, details are on my blog.

  10. Nice post. Description but not so much it distracted from the story. And good point about we can keep learning no matter the age.

  11. "The world around him rocked on"

    That one little sentence sums up the entire post, I think. You are still an amazing writer.

  12. I haven't had time to read much at all lately. But tonight, this was the first of four of your stories I was able to enjoy.
    You have a wonderful talent for taking the reader inside the story, encouraging him to see what you see, smell what you smell and taste what you taste. (even if it is bad American coffee)
    Thanks for taking me and all your other readers for a walk through your poetic mind.


  13. Thanks for that priceless comment Josh!

    Nessa - I love that line too, thanks for spotting it!

    Starlight - thanks for the award, I'm a bit buried these days so I've been a total slacker in returning a visit. But soon, I hope!

  14. Sharon -

    Thanks for saying so, I felt incredibly inspired by him too.


    I've been enjoying your stories (fiction or otherwise) a lot too. Love your scenes.

    Melee -

    Thanks. I am glad!

    Dicky -

    It's great to have you visit and glad you liked it.

    Nari -

    I definitely hope so. It may be a daily self awareness exercise to remember to unleash my mind but well worth it!

  15. Jayne -

    Never too late and you are no slacker!

    SFW -

    Your writing always amazes me.

  16. The words you use in this post are riveting. That fourth paragraph is beautiful and has a wonderful cadence. Even better, this little real life tale has a moral we can all use. THank you for that.

  17. We are never too old to learn; thank you for this reminder that can be applied to all areas of life!

  18. I enjoyed the sharp contrast in this piece. Well done.




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