I ducked into the coffee shop thankful for a respite from the pelting snow. I had an hour to kill and, after picking up a bottle of wine for the upcoming dinner in an hour, I felt this café in Cleveland Park to be a sanctuary. My mint tea and half-finished book invited me all the more to the cozy seats. I settled in only to receive a phone call and began a conversation with family that lasted for most of my stay. The hour melted away. The man cleaning the surrounding tables, however, alarmed me. Would I have to leave the café prematurely? Were they getting ready to close? I looked around.
“Do you close at 7 or 8?” I asked.
“A las ocho,” he said, signifying the latter.
‘A, cierran a las ocho? Gracias,” “Oh, you close at eight? Thanks.”
“Hablas espanol?” he said, asking if I spoke Spanish.
Before I knew it, the man from El Salvador stopped and began what would only be a ten minute conversation.
A father of four. An employee with two jobs. A lover with a broken heart. A sage with wisdom.
He spoke of many things. The different weather. The past 11 years in D.C. His son in Texas. The love of his life. The pain of finding her with another man.
“You’re single?” he said “soltera?” And after a quick jab of “my son is your age,” to which I could only laugh and roll my eyes, the wiseman emerged.
“There are different types of love,” he began. "The artificial and the profound. The type that looks to the external and the type that looks within. I’ve given and received both. But the latter is pure, the latter is true. Wait for the latter,” he said, “don’t put up with anything else. Wait for the man who looks at your soul.”
I smiled, acknowledging the truth of his words.
“Well, I’ve got to get back to work,” he said. “Good luck and all the best. Adios.”
I picked up my empty cup, closed my barely touched book and pulled on my down coat before emerging once more into the white flurries outside.
“So much for killing time,” I laughed while walking across the snowy bridge to Woodley Park.
So much for killing time.