As the first assignment for a course I took a couple years back, I was asked to write a short character description, using someone I actually knew. As a result, I chose the person you'll meet here (whose name has been changed for this literary purpose).
COFFEE, CIGARETTES AND A CARPET-SELLING COWBOY
The first morning John strode in and ordered coffee, it seemed he might have just stepped in from the Old West instead of from the flooring sales department of the store next door. His ageless, weather-lined face and lean denim-and-leather-clad frame made it easy to believe his hat and spurs must lie on the seat of his red Toyota pickup corralled out front.
He didn't say much at first. It took me weeks, in fact, to even learn his name. But then one morning, as he broodingly stirred his coffee and stared out into the thick grey gloom of a winter storm, his words suddenly burst forth: "I willed this day."
Startled, I eyed him quizzically. "Newland Archer," he said. "The Age of Innocence. I love that book."
And then he was gone.
The next day, of course, he returned. And so, from those few blurted expressions of the previous morning, we began a dialogue that ran for over two years -- generally in the same halting fashion as that first encounter. His dark eyes would burn with anger as he railed against injustice, or gleam with mischief as he shared self-deprecating tales of those small insignificant experiences of life that somehow matter most.
As winter stretched into spring, I would sometimes glance up to see him smoking pensively in a trenchcoat in the rain, the grey wisps rising to blend with the clouds as he paced back and forth on the sidewalk or stood silently, his silhouette lending the scene the air of a still photo taken from a black-and-white movie of a bygone era.
A few months ago, I stopped working at the shop where I met John, and I still miss those conversations we so frequently shared. But, every so often, when I walk outside to be greeted by a cold rain or gently falling snow, I think of coffee, cigarettes and a carpet-selling cowboy, and wonder if the weather is still bowing to his will.