As Jonathan Felder recounted his love-forsaken youth, Tom and Michael each took another glance at him.
“That is definitely a man deep in thought,” Tom surmised. “He looks like he’s so unaware of anything but his contemplations.”
“He’s known for that. It’s as if all that matters to him are his random thoughts,” Michael agreed. “You know Larry who comes in here, usually sits on the other side, watching television? He told me that Felder would often write in that notebook he’s been reading from. What he’s writing, I don’t think anyone knows. Larry told me once that he saw Felder crying once while he was writing.”
“How long ago was this?” Tom queried.
“It’s been years now- probably four or five.”
“Well, that isn’t the most unnatural of things, is it? I mean if the dude’s hurting and is trying to get his feelings out…” Tom said.
“Yeah, I know it’s not a crime. But in a public place?” Michael answered disapprovingly.
“Anyway, besides the loner attitude, cold coffee and habitual clothing, what else do you know about him?” Tom asked inquisitively.
Just as Michael was about to respond their waitress arrived to bring them fresh drinks.
“Stacey, how long have you been working here?” Michael asked hoping to start a conversation that would lead to more information about Jonathan Felder.
“About eight years,” she replied, filling their glasses. “Why?”
“Well, you know Felder over in the corner right? I mean he’s probably been coming here since before you started. Tell me, has he ever talked to you, other than pleasantries?”
“Let me see…I don’t think so… Wait, yeah, he did. It was around Christmas time about six years ago.”
“Tell us about it if you don’t mind,” Michael politely begged.
“I don’t mind. Besides it will give me a chance to get off my feet for a few minutes. I haven’t had a break all night.”
With that concession, the middle-aged waitress sat down at the table and started her story.
“I don’t think he’s a bad guy or anything, I mean everyone has some eccentricity to them, right?” Stacey began. Tom and Michael nodded in agreement and Stacey continued. “But that night he looked even more sad than usual. He ordered his coffee and I think something to eat as well. He had spent the better part of his time writing in his notebook. After about an hour he asked me for another coffee refill and as I complied he asked me to sit down for a minute to keep him company. There wasn’t much else to do, so I did. He didn’t say too much at first and I started to feel awkward. All of a sudden, he asked me a question.”
“So, we already know he’s not much for speaking. What did he ask you Stacey?” Michael inquired.
“He said, ‘how do you feel about rain?’”
“I replied, ‘what do you mean?’”
“He didn’t answer me but looked at me as if he expected me to say more. I wanted to figure out why he had asked me about rain, so I said, ‘Rain is rain. It is just part of life. You deal with it when you have to, you know?’”
“Then he said, “Does it bother you, especially the freezing rain? I mean I can’t stand it when it rains. It’s just so inconvenient.’”
“He said this with an angry look in his eyes. It was as if the inconvenience of the rain had frustrated him for years.”
“Then I asked him why rain bothered him so much. To this day, I’m not sure I understand his answer. He took his time, looking out the windows. It was almost as if he was purposefully searching for someone or something. I didn’t realize it until a few days later that he was probably looking to see if it was raining yet; it had rained off and on for most of the last week and here it was Christmas Eve and the forecasters were calling for more.”
“Finally he said, ‘because it just makes things harder. You have enough in life to drag you down already- your job, newspapers, and the selfishness of everyone around you. You get off work, just wanting to get home and relax and so often the clouds gather, it starts pouring and it takes that much longer to get home. By the time I get home, I am in such a bad mood because I had to endure what I dreaded all day that I hardly enjoy any part of my evening. Besides, isn’t rain bad for business? People don’t go out in the rain like they do when the weather is clear. Putting up with rain just seems to be more trouble than it is worth. I think the impracticality of rain far outweighs its benefits.’”
“After listening to him, I just told him, that rain can be bad for business sometimes but other days, it actually makes people want to come in and get some of our great coffee, especially before heading to and from work. After I said that he nodded in agreement, finished his coffee and tried to close the conversation by saying, ‘So, you can deal with the rain when you have to, even if it may make things harder sometimes, but it is actually a good thing?’”
“I tried to make one more point by saying, ‘I can kind of see how rain has a purpose, even if it may make some things like traveling harder at times. But I think it is a good thing.’”
“He then bought me a drink and you could hear the rain outside coming down. He bid me good night, paid for his bill, gave a big tip as usual and left. I didn’t see him again for a few weeks after that, but he started coming regularly again and has ever since.”
“Thanks for the story, Stacey. I don’t know what to make of it,” Michael said.
“It doesn’t seem all that revealing, even though it was interesting,” Tom concurred.
“For a man known for deep thought, it would seem to me that he would talk about something more significant than rain, or there has to be a deeper meaning to his hatred of it,” Michael surmised.
“Well, maybe he had a bad experience because of the rain- like a car wreck,” Tom said, thinking out loud.
“But this is a guy who drinks plain, cold coffee- how could he be so bothered by freezing rain? A car wreck would be the only thing that made sense,” Michael agreed.
“To my knowledge, he doesn’t have a car. Maybe he fell in love with his ex-wife when it was raining,” Stacey offered, then excused herself and went back to work.
“I just can’t figure this dude out,” Tom said.
“Yeah, there’s obviously more to him than appears. It makes you wonder what kind of thoughts possess a guy like that,” Michael stated with a perplexed face.
“What are you going to do, go over there, introduce yourself and expect him to open up to you?” Tom asked, hoping Michael wasn’t seriously considering such a thing.
“I just might do tha-”
But before Michael could finish, they watched Felder leave for the night.
“I guess not tonight,” Michael said dejectedly. “Something tells me Felder is a guy you could learn a lot from- like what mistakes to avoid. I sure would like to interview him, even off the record.”
“I wouldn’t get my hopes up,” Tom replied.
“Well, I know his aren’t. Besides, what could it hurt? Even loners want someone to talk to once in a while.”