tell someone else’s story: day six

“Another writing prompt. This time, tell a friend’s story or rewrite the end to a popular novel. You could even put yourself in the shoes of your neighbor.”

(I don’t like this one. I barely feel safe writing from my own perspective, let alone what I project on to other people.)
Henry was a man of first, second and thirds.

He was first, early to rise. Henry always woke at 6:02 am and unlike the sleepy, lingering masses that surrounded him in his suburban neighborhood, sat up straight away. He was second, thorough to brush his teeth. Henry had never had a cavity in his life, and though I, myself don’t understand it, he belonged to the group of people who brush their teeth before they’ve had a drop of coffee or a scrap of breakfast. Perhaps in his younger days, Henry might have protested, but things being what they were and all, he didn’t mind the subtle clash his tastebuds would receive later on. He was third, quick to dress–simple and neat. His favorite socks and trousers laid out on the desk next to a loose, nondescript sweater (one might call it a cardigan, but knowing his feelings towards the use of the word “cardigan”, one might not) were easy to slip into. Brown, weathered penny loafers sat like watchman facing the door of his bedroom, guarding him from all that goes bump in the night.

He was on to the next set of threes.

He was first, prompt to depart his dark sanctuary no more than 15 minutes after waking at 6:17 am. Henry was never late. Second, he was brisk on his four block walk to a local cafe. It had always been his favorite. Third, he was polite in his morning greeting to Jason, the college student/barista turning the “Open/Closed” sign around to welcome the early risers like Henry. He might not have bothered to be so official–no one would be in until at least 7:15, but Jason knew Henry didn’t like to feel like he was an inconvenience. Better let Henry feel that Jason would have been working all along, without mindless social media to scan on his iPhone.

Henry always needed three things before he could settle in the green armchair in the back of the shop (the one adjacent to the fireplace). First, he would need a black cup of coffee without “all that extra stuff”; coffee had always been bitter and warm to him and it was part of the little slap that he needed to get going. Second, he would need a raspberry filled, cream-cheese croissant. For all the bitter practicality that Henry relied on to wake him up, he also loved a sweet little pastry to keep his somewhat dreamy stillness (so close since he had so recently awakened). Third, Henry would need a paper. All men like Henry, in little cafes, awake before everyone else need a paper to read.

And that is how I would find him. Each day sitting faithfully posted, scanning the thin pages of the ‘New York Times’ with a curious mix of tenderness and keenness. I don’t expect I’ll ever know what he’s actually like, who he’s loved or who he’s lost.

He sure looks like a man that deals in threes, though.


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