The door of the coffee shop rang out as the old man walked through the entrance. He sat down in the same chair that he occupied every Sunday morning for the past 35 years. It was quiet today. A few students sat in the corner and discussed an upcoming test. In a few weeks, the local college would fill this shop to the brim studying for finals. He didn’t mind. It reminded him of when he was younger.
A waitress came up to him and placed a coffee mug sitting in a saucer beside him. She never asked what he wanted. It was the same drink every week. A standard cup of coffee. Black.
“Thanks, dear.” He said with a gravel voice.
He picked up the mug and took a long draw from the black coffee within. As usual, the waitress had waited enough time to let the coffee cool down to the temperature that he loved. Not too hot to burn his mouth but, warm enough to still enjoy the flavor without being too bitter. After placing the cup back into the saucer, he sat back in his chair and stared at the newspaper in front of him.
This coffee shop never changed. It was something that the man truly admired about the shop. And, it was the same reason he returned to the shop every week. The same flavor of beans were imported every week to be ground, roasted, and served. The cups were the same since the shop opened minus a few cups that replaced broken ones. The wooden tables were aged. When first installed they were perfectly smooth. Now, they showed character. Beyond aging, nothing in here ever changed.
But, the outside world did. It seemed to be getting worse everyday. While the man looked down to the newspaper laying in front of him, he frowned. He read a title to one of the articles on the front page. A young girl was raped and murder last night. Abandoned in a gutter. He pursed his lips and shook his head. He thought back to a time when the news wasn’t always so dismal. When the world didn’t seem like such a horrible place.
But, maybe the world wasn’t changing so much. He thought for a moment and wondered if it was him that was changing instead. Maybe he was just getting older and noticed the horrors of what was going around him more. It’s not like there were any world wars raging on. Only small skirmishes between countries. There was no epidemic sweeping the globe and wiping out a solid fraction of humanity. No. Medicine is better now than it ever was before. Maybe the same crimes had been happening all along. But, now the news reported on those crimes rather than a looming threat of doomsday.
He took another sip from the mug and let the warm coffee trickle down his throat. At least one thing in this world was better today. He admired the coffee for a second before setting it down again. He pushed the newspaper aside and pulled a ballpoint pen from his pocket and clicked it open. Taking the pen to the yellow legal pad that had been sitting under the newspaper earlier, he split the page vertically with a line going down the middle. On the left side of the line he wrote “pros” and the right side, “cons.”
After setting up the table, he tapped the pen against the paper while staring out the large window at the front of the shop. His eyes glazed over as he stared at nothing. Deep in thought, he drummed a steady beat on the legal pad with his pen. His eyes grew wider as his thoughts grew deeper. Then, he snapped out of it. His eyes refocused and he looked back down at the legal pad. On the pros side, he wrote the word “satisfaction.” On the cons side, he wrote “guilt.”
He continued jotting down bullet points on both sides of the pros and cons list for several minutes. Every few bullet points, he would pause and take a sip from the coffee mug that sat next to him. The cup was soon emptied and the waitress came by and offered to refill it for him. He politely denied and she took it to clean it up. Without any more distractions, he began to dive head first into this list of pros and cons and soon he was onto the second page of the legal pad.
As the lists grew longer and longer, it took more and more time to come up with the next thought to jot down. By the time he started to draw towards the end of writing the list, he looked up and noticed that most of the patrons that were inside the shop when he first walked in were now gone. He looked back down at his legal pad, satisfied.
This was not the first time that he made a list of pros and cons while sitting in the coffee shop. It was in this very shop that many important decisions in his life were made. In this shop, he made the decision to attend the college just down the street. In this shop, he made the decision to ask out the one girl in his psych classes. In this shop, he later made the decision to marry that same girl. Every single time, it started with a legal pad, a pen, and a blank stare. Then, came the long moments of jotting down every thought that popped into his head and determining whether it was a pro or a con. It became routine for every important decision in his life to be narrowed down to a list of pros and cons. He looked at the list and then back to the newspaper article about the murder. In this shop, he just made the decision to kill the man that took his daughter away from him.