It was only a stopover, and the door was open. The food smelled particularly good, and the coffee inviting. He unwillingly got off the bus and followed the other passengers to the café with the tacky neon signboard-Welcome- blinking in the rain. The boy who served him seemed warm and nervous. His face had a look often worn by people who are genuine, hardworking and have trouble saying ‘no’. So, when he placed his order of fried chicken and asked for it to be served lightly tossed in a spicy onion-pepper sauce, the boy nodded his head without showing any signs of hesitation and quickly walked away. It was highly likely that the boy might meet with some reproach in the kitchen as the order demanded some extra few minutes on the cook’s time, which was a bit of a stretch given the deluge of orders pouring from the other tables at the time.
The rain outside was slowly gaining momentum with occasional thunder, sending a wave of mirthful thrill among the seated diners. Some of them even exclaimed like children who were no longer afraid of thunderstorms.
A swell of emotions came over him while he waited for his food to arrive. He felt a strange kind of ‘safe’ sitting in the comfort of the warm, dry room while the world outside was soaking in a merciless downpour. He wanted to stay there, forever, in that dingy little café with cheap flickering lights and dirty upholstered seats where haggard looking people sat and ate hot piping meals served in plastic dinnerware. These were ordinary people and their faces looked oddly calm and sated. Sitting among them, he felt less lonely. For a moment, he wished that he could just sit there and forget about the rest of the journey ahead. The long dusty roads, the cold indifferent world, if he could just trade all of that for a life which was less complicated and unbelievably peaceful.
After finishing his meal, he generously tipped the server who smiled at him gratefully. Before boarding the bus, he turned around and looked at the café for one last time. It was a beautiful place with simple delicious food and friendly people, much different from the world he came from. He knew he didn’t belong there. He feared if he had stayed there any longer, he would have destroyed it with his mere presence. It was just a stopover, a momentary escape for his road-weary self.