A ceramic mug sat on the counter between my hands, half filled with cold coffee. Blank sheets with a grand staff printed on them are sprawled across the counter top. It was the final night of the week which meant I had a weekend to prepare a new set for Monday night. I was getting tired of singing the same songs and playing the same guitar chordseach night; and if I was tired of it, then the coffee shop owners, Mr. and Mrs. Hamill, must be as well. I scribbled a few notesonto the staff, trying to think of what they would sound like played as a chord, but it was already past twelve and I couldn’t think straight even if I wanted to. I gathered my things, piling the papers on top of each other and took a few more sips of my coffee,not even finishing it. Scrambling through my purse, I found my wallet, pulling out a five dollar bill as I caught his eyes, stopping myself from leaving. I sat back down on the stool looking at him periodically, trying not to make it obvious.
His lips were thin and a light shade of pink as they fell in a straight line across his face, as he worked intently. I was dying to know what he was writing. I assumed he wondered the same about me. I wanted to talk to him, I had never seen him here before, surely I knew everyone in this town. Words sat in my throat, but I swallowed them afraid that if I spoke, he wouldn’t answer. He just seemed to be the type of person to be very shy and kept to himself.
I unpiled my papers, deciding to stay just a bit longer as we both continued to work in silence, too afraid to speak to one another. I finally finished writing a song, knowing it was late and that I should go home soon. I could feel his presence watching me, part of me liked the thought of him thinking of me, but another part of me wanted to crawl into a shell and hide away.
“What are you writing?” a soft voice asked. I looked up, brown eyes meeting with my green ones.
I swallowed before answering, “Just some songs, they’re pretty pointless,” I laughed, looking up at him. He walked over to me at the counter, smiling.
“I am sure that they have a great meaning, you wouldn’t have written them if they were pointless,” he pointed out.
I blushed slightly, “I guess you’re right.”
“Can I read it?” he asked, his eyes following down to the papers, already beginning to look at it.
“Well there aren’t any lyrics yet, all I have is chords for the guitar, but sure,” I said, blushing even more than I already had been.
He smiled as he picked up the first sheet, looking over the notes. He read with such concentration, as if he was trying to hear every note in his head and put together the whole song. His brown hair was covered by a white hat, to complete his outfit of khaki pants and a white polo shirt,accommodating the 50’s style diner.
“I think this note should be an A, you accidentally wrote a G,” he pointed out as he fixed it.
I was flattered, because he appeared to knowthe basics of playing guitar and how to read music, but I was also embarrassed. He probably thought I was some artist who had never performed a day in her life, who just wrote for fun.
“Sorry,” I blushed, “It’s late, I’m not thinking straight, as a matter of fact I should get going.” I began to put my sheets of music together again, handing him the five dollar bill for the coffee, although it clearly wasn’t worth the money.
“You don’t have to apologize, it’s alright,” he said as he put the money in the cash register, beginning to count out change for me.
“Keep it,” I said with a soft smile, which he then mirrored. He nodded, returning the money to the slots in the cash register.
“Hopefully I’ll see you again, …” he paused, waiting for me to say my name.
“Bryn.” A smile spread across my face as I walked to the door.
“Nolan,” he answered just as I left.
Nolan, I like the sound of that, I thought to myself as I walked into my apartment, the familiar scent of my various candles filling the air as I entered.
The next two days continued as any weekend would, slow and filled with writing. But, today felt different. It was Sunday and I had the urge to go down to the diner tonight. I didn't have the extra money to use for a meal, but it was worth it if it meant I got to talk to Nolan.
The bell atop the door rang as I opened it, stepping into practically a new era. Betsy, the head waitress, was rolling around on her skates as she delivered a meal to the one other family inside of the restaurant. Kyle, the head chef, stood by the order window, exhausted, but not from working, rather the lack of work. And Nolan. He stood at the order window, his elbows propped on the counter as he stared down at his infamous papers. I walked to the counter sitting down as I looked through the menu, although I knew what I would be ordering.
"What are you writing?" I questioned, mimicking him from the other night. He jumped slightly at the sudden sound of a voice, but as he turned to face me, his face flushed red.
"Uh," he stuttered, "Just some silly poems," he said, frantically sliding them into a notebook. "They're nothing," he stuttered, pulling out a small memo pad to take my order.
I raised my eyebrows quizzically, "They are not nothing, you wouldn't have written them if they didn't mean something." I paraphrased what he had said to me just a few days before.
Nolan bit his lip looking down at the notebook, the one with his poetry. "Well, I guess you are right,they do have a meaning," he shrugged, his eyes following down to the notebook.
Biting my lip, I wondered if I should ask to read them or not. "Could I possibly read one of the poems?"
"Uh, sure." He shuffled through multiple papers, his fingers brushing through each individual piece of paper in his notebook. His fingers were shaded black, evident of pencil led and pen ink. After rustling through his papers, he pulled one out passing it to me.
“I swallow all of my thoughts, phrases, and sentences, only to spit them out onto pieces of unread, useless paper.Words that form and in my throat and fall off my tongue don’t make an impact because I’m just a nothing here in the world. But, when I write, it’s as if my words have accented pieces to them creating an explosion to their small audience. It’s too bad it goes unread.”
Honestly, I was blown away by what Nolan had written. He is such a shy person, yet his writing was total opposite of him, and I knew this, even after just a day of meeting him. “This is incredible,” I said, passing him the paper back. “I’m so glad you let me read it,” I smiled.
Nolan blushed, not ready for the mouthful of compliments that were thrown his way. “Thank you,” he said softly before he took out his memo pad, “What can I get for you?” he questioned, trying to change the subject.
What he was doing was exactly what I would do and it wasn't going to get passed me. He was not going to change the subject. "I'll have a black coffee," I answered, even though the taste was too bitter for me to drink. Milk and sugar was too much of a delicacy for my low budget - I assumed that was one of the reasons that the diner didn’t get much business, they charged for their milk and sugar, but charging for milk and sugar also made the diner different and quite peculiar. "But, Nolan, that poem was brilliant, I would love to read some others. I'm not forcing you to give me the papers, though. You really are brilliant and I'm not just saying that to you."
His cheeks flushed red again, which brought out the darkness of his hair and eyes even more. He filled up my cup, placing a glass of milk and some sugar cubes next to it, "I know you need them," he said smiling as he cleaned up a small spot of spilled coffee, his small gestures making me smile.
Nolan continued writing his poems as I sat, silently, and without papers, drinking my coffee. The liquid slid down my throat, tasting better than the cup fromtwo nights ago. It wasn't as cold and had more flavor with the sugar and milk. As I continued to sip my coffee, staring off into space, Nolan slipped me a paper.
"Love never made much sense to me,
You see, kisses were weird, and hand holding only made my palms sweaty and I don't think that's what love is. Your eyes, they were just like anyone else's. I didn't get butterflies looking at you, rather anxiety and I knew this was wrong. And I realized I wasn't in love, but not because I didn't like you, but because love never made much sense to me."
"Nolan," I whispered, astonished by the beauty written on paper.
"I know it's not that great," he blushed, taking the paper back, sliding it into his notebook.
"No, that's not what I was trying to tell you. It's the complete opposite of that. It is beautiful," I said, wanting to see the poem again.
Nolan nodded as he went back to work. My eyes glanced at the clock, it was already 10:50, and I had a gig tomorrow night. I knew that I wouldn't be able to convince Nolan that his work was a masterpiece. "I should get going, I have a performance tomorrow night," I said, resting a five dollar bill on the counter, letting the diner keep the change again.
It was just before 7:30, Monday night, and I was getting ready for yet another gig. My guitar was tuned and I had already warmed up my voice for tonight. From inside of my makeshift dressing room towards the back of the coffee shop, I could hear people settling down into their seats and ordering their coffees. But, something was different. There was more noise and movement than I had ever heard at this coffee shop, which was practically in the middle of nowhere. The increase in people also increased my nerves for tonight. I was used to performing in front of crowds, but not bigger ones.
My phone alarm soon went off, signaling that it was time to go out and perform. Carrying, my guitar, I walked out on stage, smiling at the crowd as I took my seat on the stool seated in the middle of the stage. Adjusting my microphone and turning it on, I introduced myself. “My name is Bryn Peters and I hope you all enjoy the show tonight.” I began to play the strings of the guitar for my first song.
Halfway through the gig, I began to warm up to the audience. I wasn’t nervous about the large amount of people in the crowd, for someone my nervousness fell away. My eyes scanned the crowd as I sang one of the new songs I had written just this weekend and as I looked through the sea of people, my eyes met with those familiar brown ones. Nolan.
I want to believe that the comfort of Nolan being in the audience is what made my nerves disappear. The evening went on as I performed and I was singing as though it was the only thing on my mind, but in reality, Nolan was the one and only thing that I could think of. As I sang I scanned the people in the seats, constantly finding Nolan. I often locked my eyes with his as a smile lit up his face. Tonight’s gig ended up going longer than I expected. By the time I had finished, it was close to 10:00. In my makeshift dressing room, I packed up and was ready to go home, exhausted. When I left the coffee shop, everyone had already left. Which also meant that Nolan didn’t stick around.
Wednesday night, after my second show of the week, I decided to head over to the diner. The bell rang on the door as I opened it and walked over to the counter. It was almost routine now. I looked at the menu, knowing I would be ordering a black coffee, and trying to write lyrics. But, the routine had been interrupted by the lack of Nolan. He wasn’t sitting at the counter, writing in his notebook; he was nowhere to be seen. Betsy, the head waitress skated over towards me, pulling out her memo pad. “What can I get for you, dear?” She asked, clicking the top of her pen.
“Is Nolan here?” I asked.
“Ahh, is someone in love?” she jokingly asked. Betsy and I were close friends, since I always came to the diner after performing, before Nolan was here, before there was a real reason to come to the diner after performing. Betsy didn’t give me time to answer as she went into the kitchen where Nolan was probably washing dishes. He then appeared without Betsy.
“You didn’t come on Monday,” he pointed out.
I sighed to myself, “I know, I was tired, the gig went longer than usual, and plus, you didn’t stay after the gig,” I pointed out.
“Because I thought that you would come here! I waited for you.”
“Well, I’m sorry,” I said looking at him, “But, I am here now,” I replied, smiling brightly at him in attempt to make him happier, since he seemed cold, not like his normal self.
Nolan nodded as he turned away going to the pot of coffee, pouring a cup, stirring in the sugar and milk, instead of giving me the glass of milk and cup of sugar cubes. He placed it down in front of me without saying a word. “Nolan,” I stopped him from turning back around.
He looked at me, blankly. “What?” he asked with a bit of attitude towards me.
“What’s going on, are you mad at me for not coming Monday night?” I questioned.
“It’s not just that,” he mumbled playing with the apron that wrapped around his body.
“What is it?” I asked, resting my hand on top of the hand that he rested on the counter, trying to comfort him as best as I could.
He looked down at me, pulling away from the hug, “It’s so selfish and I’m so bitter,” he began, “you’re so successful with what you do, I mean you write these gorgeous songs that are so powerful and you get to show them off to people three times a week. I write hopeless poetry that nobody will ever read. The poems have no meaning to them, as much as you tell me that they do -- they don’t! And no matter how many times you tell me that my poems are so good, it doesn’t make them any better. I’m a hopeless poet that will never get anywhere, and I’m sick of trying to make it work, knowing that it never will.”
“Nolan, that is so untrue, you are so talented, and it will take just the right person to notice that. Your poems are so beautiful and have such an impact, even if it was just me that read a few of them, I know that anyone else who reads them would be astonished by what you can do. Please don’t give up, you never know where these can take you,” I said, trying to comfort him, and trying to help him realize the truth.
"Yeah, because one day I'll magically not be shy and will be able to speak on a stage," he said sarcastically turning back around.
"Nol-" I was cut off as I began to talk by Nolan.
"And I'm so stupid for telling myself 'you'll make it' 'don't worry, one day someone will publish your work' 'maybe you'll be able to read your pieces one day' 'if you weren't so shy, which you'll surely overcome' all these damn profanities, working up my courage," he rambled on, angry at himself.
I sighed, it was going to be very hard to get him to realize the truth, “I’m proud of you for telling yourself those things, and I know for sure that there will be people that will hear of the beauty you write,” I said as I slipped him a piece of paper that I brought with me.
“What’s this?” he asked, picking it up reading it. The paper was a song I had written, with the chorus of the last poem he showed me.
“Bryn, look, I’m glad you wrote this, nobody will hear this ever. I wouldn’t blame you if you just wrote this to make me shut up,” he said giving the paper back to me.
I sighed again, getting my guitar, which I brought into the restaurant after the gig. “Listen, I’ll play for you,” I whispered as I began to play Nolan’s song.