It was March, 1998. He walked toward the coffee cart cautiously, slightly behind his mother’s arm. There was no fear, only insecurity. There were two things that he knew about his uncle. The first was that he loved him. The second was that he didn’t know him. Not really. He was 11 years old.
His uncle had owned a coffee cart along a side but prominent street in Ocean Beach, California (a small town outside of San Diego) since 1994. Being 11 years of age, he had no taste for coffee, nor the chatter or socialization that was involved in it. Yet he did enjoy the first thing that his uncle offered him.
“Here you go,” Kevin said.
As he smiled he handed Stuart a firm bakery item that he had never had before. Stuart unwrapped the scone which he continued to devour as Kevin handed Stuart’s mother an Italian soda.
“How much do I owe you?” Michelle said.
“Nothing,” Kevin replied.
“No-” Michelle gave pause. She began reaching for her purse.
“No,” Kevin responded with a smile that never faded, and insisted.
Stuart began to indulge in the scone which tore him away from any conversation that ensued for the next few minutes. Every bite was something new and rich and wonderful.
There was an umbrella that covered three chairs and shaded a small part of an alley as well. The coffee cart itself was humble and charming. It was a shade of San Diego. An off color that fit perfectly into the lifestyle of the locals and tourist s who might just indulge there. There was no pretension. There was purpose. But there was much, so much more than that. Just a block or so away from the ocean and the freeway, the location afforded itself its share of new and returning customers, all of which brought their own sense of obscurity and purpose to the stand. It stood remote, wandering, bewildered, charming and exact. There was fulfillment that was within the coffee cart that could never exist in a Starbucks or Seattle’s Best. And it had nothing to do with coffee. Kevin was a pillar. A fortitude. A beacon of something that was Ocean Beach. Not only in nature but in virtue. It stood for what had been and what would be. Ideally. And yet it was but an item on the menu of something much greater.
“How are you?” asked Michelle.
Kevin remaining with his smile, “Great.”
They sat down as Kevin began helping another customer. Stuart continuing into his scone as if fortifying it from the pigeons that loomed in the alley. A pair of surfers skated by, arms glistening in the morning sun. Shirtless; careless. Their twin blonde hair dangled effortlessly and swept slightly in their indigenous speed along the street, traveling the wrong way against traffic on a Saturday morning. One dropped their surf board for a split second and recovered as their skate board swerved smoothly into traffic, and then gathered back as if recovering from a bump in a wave.
Stuart heard nothing of commerce. The scone stole his attention even as surfers attempted to become flattened on the Ocean Beach streets. There was simultaneous stillness and commotion on the 9am streets of apathy. Stuart didn’t know why, but everyone else knew all very well.
The sun had began peaking just over the not-too-tall buildings surrounding Kevin’s coffee shop. It was exaggerated. Everything was to Stuart. Perhaps it was the scone and the sugar. Perhaps it was the closeness of family that he felt, which had never been extensively important before. He sat in awe of the moment. The scone was nearing completion, but he revered the situation that his mother and his uncle had granted him. There was a peacefulness, a perfection, that he had never experienced through video games or television shows. It was a purposeful peace. And at that moment he began to understand his uncle just a bit more.
“Hey!” his aunt Julie shouted as she passed a crowd of bicyclists.
Everyone’s face rose in glee to see the outstretched arms of the youngest sister. Smiles were abundant.
–End Chapter 1–