Morning, hot and golden, had broken over the horizon about an hour earlier. Mina had risen, showered and dressed and headed out into the warren of alleys and passages of the bazaar. These spaces in between were, like the negative space in a painting, born of the room left empty between stalls.
It was shady and dark in there, though already hot, as she moved anonymously along among the men and women and children, crushing and heaving and smelling of stale spices and sand and sweat in their multicoloured throng.
She passed piles of rugs, scarves, pottery and pots, gold and silver and gemstones and mirrors. She twisted and turned, moving through tables that held bowls upon bowls of ground powders in reds and browns and golds and blacks, their sweet and sour and spicy aromas mingling and lifting into the sky to temporarily block out the stench of humanity.
At the end of one spice stall and just before the first vegetable stall, she turned and ducked through an almost invisible doorway, seeming to disappear into a building which rose out of nowhere.
The building’s walls were white, but hidden by the brightly coloured awnings of the stalls out front. The doors, two heavy cypress wood doors etched with floral and paisley patterns, stood open onto the bazaar.
The air inside the building was cool and damp, it did not absorb the heat from without, nor any of the scant daylight. Inside was perpetual night time, lit by candles in old tins, patterned holes punched in their sides to increase the spray of flickering light.
It was quieter in here, the sound of muted voices discussing politics, poetry, the woes of the world and the next chess move, mingled with the clinking of cups and glasses, all unhindered by the din of the sounds outside. It smelled of mint tea, coffee and sweet smoke. Mina stopped to breathe freely again.
A man behind the long, dark bar looked up and nodded at her before he disappeared behind a Persian wall-hanging into a hidden anteroom at the back. Presently, he returned with a small burlap sack and beckoned Mina to come closer.
“Your coffee beans, Mrs. Mina,” he whispered, passing the bag to her reverently, as though it held something precious.
“I have kept them aside especially for you; these ones are the freshest. They were just roasted this morning,” he continued. “I know that’s what you like.”
“And that’s why, Monsieur, I continue to come to you. You are so good to me. Thank you.”
Mina paid him and turned to go, tucking the bag under her arm.
“I will see you next week,” she said as she moved toward the door.
“Yes, Mrs. Mina. Thank you. I will make sure to hold aside your special beans again for you again next week.”
And then, she was outside again, her senses assaulted after the calm of the cafe and the kind consideration of its owner. She smiled as she thought of his eagerness to please her particular tastes. He was not used to his customers making their own coffee, much less knowing and caring enough about the process to request the freshest beans. And he was, for that reason alone, happy to hold aside the best for her.
He had been surprised when, two months earlier, she had walked into his cafe and requested a cup of coffee. Usually, his establishment was frequented by regulars, old men who played chess and held the same arguments about life and death day after day after month after year. They certainly were not connoisseurs of coffee or tea.
She had thoughtfully savoured that cup of coffee and had asked him about its origins, its freshness and his brewing methods. Despite his surprise, he appreciated her interest and her knowledge and from that day forward, he would hold aside a bag of the freshest beans for her. Just enough to last her a week.
For her part, Mina had never experienced such gracious and courteous service before. Monsieur did not speak much – he seemed shy – but she was happy to have established this weekly ritual and this familiarity with a small corner of the bazaar.
Her step quickened as she neared her home. She began to anticipate the perfect cup of coffee – creamy, thick and velvety – which she would soon enjoy, brewed with her special beans, the freshest in town.
Inspired by today’s Daily Prompt: What’s the most dreadful (or wonderful) experience you’ve ever had as a customer?
Also inspired by the excellent service at the shop where my husband and I buy our coffee.
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