For me , that day , in the middle of Water Street , I was being confronted by just such a defining moment — and I felt absolutely compelled to return to the restaurant and to the presence of that solitary figure .
“ Damn ! I must be losing it ,” I said out loud , almost in despair . It ’ s probably all this crazy shit with the self-appointed guardians of the revolution back at the house . I can ’ t even think straight anymore , I reasoned as I stood there torn , not sure what to do . And just how the hell am I supposed to pull this off anyway ? I wolfed at the voice inside my head . Just as quickly , a random thought entered my mind . Why not offer him a cup of coffee ?
I greedily gulped down the suggestion . Brown Betty didn ’ t offer free refills , so a cup of coffee would be the perfect entrée . I hurried back to the restaurant and stood peering through the crowd till I scoped out the mystery man . I fell into the queue , anxious that he might decide to leave before I could execute my plan . I cast a glance toward him , careful not to get snagged by his large , alert eyes . But he was so focused on whatever he was writing that his body was like a statue except for the steady movement of his pen . Meanwhile , I reassured myself that , for the moment , I had to do whatever it took to get past this silly diversion and move on with my real business at ascria .
There were two waitresses taking orders behind the counter , and the line was moving along briskly . That ’ s when I noticed that everybody ahead of me used the expression , “ Hot it up , please !” when referring to the ready-made sandwiches stacked to the side of the grill . While I definitely wanted a hot sandwich , my rigid “ Yankee ” ( as the Guyanese pegged all North Americans ) sense of protocol recoiled at this folksy expression , which struck me as an unnecessary assault on the English language . I actually worked myself up into a tizzy about it ( which took my mind off why I was there in the first place ). Soon the guy right in front of me stepped forward . “ Hot it up , please !” he said nonchalantly . Meanwhile , I ’ d decided I would not back down , as he stepped aside .
“ Heat it up , please !” I said to the waitress .
“ Whah you talkin , nuh ?” She turned her head to the side , cupping one ear .
“ Could you heat up the sandwich for me , please ?”
“ Come again …?” she screwed up her face .
“ Hot it up , please !” I caved . “ And give me two coffees .”
“ Yeah , mon !” she smiled , pitched the sausage onto the grill , and set two hot cups of coffee in front of me .
Some days you just have to go with the flow , I finally acknowledged this lesson , which kept boomeranging back to me .
I glanced over the heads of the crowd to make sure the writer was still there , as I weaved my way through the noisy atmosphere , balancing two brimming full cups of coffee in one hand and my sandwich in the other , a trick I ’ d picked up as a busboy back in college . Tamping down the hornet ’ s nest in my bowels , I approached my mark , determined to carry this off . He looked up at me with a puzzled expression , as I hovered over his table . Without hesitation , I slid a cup of coffee in front of him , careful not to spill any . He flashed a smile that revealed strong , even teeth .
“ I thought you might like a refill ,” I said .
“ Why yes , thank you very much ,” he replied in a deep and melodious voice tinctured by a British accent .
“ May I join you ?” I asked , indicating the empty chair .
“ Why yes , of course … you are very welcome ,” he said graciously , as he closed his tablet and pushed it aside along with his pen .
I eased into the chair and busied myself arranging my coffee and sandwich , while trying to get a handle on my next move .
He studied me briefly . “ You are a Yankee chap , right … here on holiday ?”
“ Yes , I am American , but I ’ m not on vacation . Actually , I ’ m here working with ascria ,” I volunteered . “ So I take it that you are from here ?” I asked .
He nodded . “ Well … yes and no to that one . I am Guyanese , of course , but my travels have taken me far from home . This is quite funny , because I am here on holiday ,” he said .
73 BLACK RENAISSANCE NOIRE