The Nickel

I just wanted a cup of coffee.

It was raining on and off. Already tired from walking around downtown, and without an umbrella, a coffee shop next to a cinema house was too irresistible to pass up. The fact that it wasn’t one of those national chains an added bonus.

The place wasn’t busy. Must have caught it during screenings. A few minutes later, I sat down by a large glass window. Black coffee and a small slice of brownie, the usual. It’s the little things in life that bring joy, isn’t that how the saying goes? The inclement weather outside really brought out the warmth of the coffee. I was fully savoring it. Taking extra small sips. Normally I wolf down the brownie in a couple of eager bites, but not this time. I was saving it for later, perhaps with a second cup.

The rain was getting heavier.

A bus pulled up just outside, and a stream of riders descended, then quickly parted in different directions. A few came into in the shop, not sure if to stay dry or to get some refreshments. My attention was drawn to an older lady, heavy set, with a cumbersome jacket, covering undoubtedly more layers underneath. She moved slowly with difficulty, under the weight of her clothes and body, to a table just in front of me. Her labored breathing was audible as she sat down. I noticed she did not order anything.

Several sips of coffee later, I was just about to start dissecting the brownie when I caught her glaze and she said:

“Young man, can you let me know when you see the #90 bus coming? Supposed to be here in 5 min.”

A slight Caribbean accent.

“Sure thing”, I replied.

“Can’t miss this one, or else it’s another 40 min before the next bus.” She added, for emphasis.

I smiled and nodded, as to reassure her that I’m up for the task.

More relaxed now, the lady started to take off her scarf. She movements slow and deliberate, a well rehearsed set of motions, dragged down by the passage of time.

With the new responsibility, my attention was now divided between the brownie and the street lane leading up to the bus stop. I was much more alert and focused than just a few minutes ago, no doubt aided by the caffeine that was finally kicking in.

Another bus pulled up, not the #90. The loud sound of the brakes made the old lady look up and checked the displayed bus number to make sure. She reached into her jacket and took out a small purse. Counting changes from it, she then struggled to get up to order, what I assumed, a cup of coffee for the next leg of her trip.

Just as she came back and sat down in her chair, with one hand holding a coffee and the other her purse, I spotted the #90 bus heading towards the stop.

“Your bus is here.” I gestured with my head pointing to the window.

“Oh…oh jeez, thanks.” A little flustered, she hurried to get up again, while holding onto all her belongings and grabbing her scarf as well. Sensing her rush, I got up and said to her:

“Take your time, I’ll let the driver know and wait for you”.

I went outside and did just that. The rain wasn’t letting up. When I ran back inside, I could already the feel the wetness seeping through the front of my shoes.

“It’s all good, he’ll wait for you.”

“How nice of you, thank you.” She had already made her way to just before the front door and managed to put her scarf back on.

“Here, this is for you.” She pressed something into my right hand.

Surprised, I looked down and saw a coin.

A small coin.

A nickel.

“Oh, that’s ok, it’s my pleasure, no need…” I started to mumble before the old lady cut in firmly:

“Take it, young man, it’s not a tip. You keep it on you, always, and it will bring you luck.”

I paused, not sure what to say or do, and looked at her.

She smiled, her eyes were friendly, and kind.

“Keep it, okay? Don’t forget.”

Then she headed out the door, without another word.

I sat down at my table, looked at the coin again. It’s an ordinary nickel, nothing special about it whatsoever.

Chuckling, I was about to leave it on the table, but something made me change my mind.

Instead, I took out my wallet, and put it inside a small leather pouch, apart from all the other loose change.

I’ve been carrying it ever since.

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