Unknown Impact

Coffee header image

Not too long after my mother’s death, still barely over the shock and with the funeral still ripe in my memory, I was back at work acting like my whole world had not come to a shuddering and awful halt. In an attempt to escape from the nightmarish reminder that was a sudden empty house, I fled to the place I still go to when I want to be alone in a crowd – the local coffee shop. And that is where we met.

His face was the first person I had seen in days of only going to work and nowhere else whose smile wasn’t forced and whose eyes did not hold pity. I’m sure he could see that my “I’m fine thanks, and you” was a lie, but he nevertheless made jokes until I laughed. Really laugh. Dressed in a green and black uniform, new at his job, with his open face and friendly eyes, he was the first person to make me forget for a moment that my heart had been ripped out and my soul had been ripped apart.

Visits to the coffee shop became more and more common as I fled to the well-known and strangely comforting surroundings to read, write, and study. Soon I no longer had to ask for my usual order, but it would be brought to me after a joking hello.

As the months passed and the pain started to fade, he would keep up the greetings, small talk about weather, books, or studies and would stop at my table when he wasn’t my waiter. He was a welcome constant in a time when the world had stopped turning and I was trapped in darkness so very far away from the sun.


It’s been nearly three months since I last saw him – he has changed jobs.


I have wondered what kind of change he perhaps made in other patrons’ lives, or if I helped to brighten his day once or twice through a smile and a quick talk. I also hope that, one day, I can run into him again and thank him. Without even knowing it, he had helped me pick up the pieces of a life broken by life. And for that I can only be thankful.


This isn’t a story about how we fell in love and found a soul mates or some bigger truth that I learnt and now want to share with the world. Or maybe there is one little truth – you never know your true impact on someone else’s life.


Ps. I’ve been doing some short courses on SkillShare to help better my writing (I hope!) and I’ve been focusing on creative non-fiction and personal essays/narratives as I haven’t really focused on that in the past. This was a practice run…

By Carin Marais

Bibliophile, writer of speculative fiction, non-fiction, and maybe-fiction, language practitioner, doer of stuff.


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