Right in the heart of Saigon, walking out of a hotel after a day long seminar, before heading home, I tried to find a place to get some good warm food for dinner, like noodle soup or anything similar. Since I got this miserable sinus, tears and nose had been running all day long.
It was getting dark, and starting to rain. And I did not have an umbrella with me (again, whenever it rained). I told myself to walk fast, hoping to find a place to seat and eat while waiting for the rain to stop. It was in the middle of a busy central district, no shortage of coffee shops and restaurants, but I couldn’t find any place I wished while the rain was getting really heavy. I had to stop to take shelter from the rain. Otherwise, I would be completely soaked and even more miserably sick.
I happened to stop in front of a multiple-storey office building, I thought it was a hotel or some kind of shop. I asked the building guard to let me stand here in front of the shop, and then recognized it was actually a coffee shop on the first floor. The rain did not seem to subside. l looked into the cafe to check if I could find anything to eat. But they did not have stuff I wanted, except some cakes. I comforted myself and talked to God: “Please don’t let me stand here for too long. I’m already sick.”
I did not remember how long it took me to stand here. Maybe half an hour or so.
There came a 7-seat car approaching the building. The building guard asked me to make way for the car to park in front of the building. I tried to nestle myself from both the rain and the car.
A man got out of the car, exchanging some pleasantries with the building guard. Only few minutes, the man left with the car. I did not pay attention to anything else rather than the food right then. I continued sheltering under the rain, waiting for it to stop. The guard suddenly asked me: “Ms. please get inside, take a seat, no charge.” I said: “Thanks but I only waited for the rain to stop then I would have to go soon.” (Well, the true reason was that I couldn’t find anything in their shop that I wished to eat.)
Then, I kept looking up at the sky pouring out rain. Suddenly, from behind my back: “Ms. please have a cup of tea.” A young girl came and offered me a cup of tea on her hands.
“Oh, wow!” beyond my surprise: “Why?” I asked. “Nothing, my boss wanted to invite you to a cup of tea.”
For that moment, my flash thought was: “Am I that attractive to someone?” But I had to disappoint myself only after one second. “I am in a black formal suit, wearing a mask, hat on my head, little anyone can see even my eyes, how could it ever be attractive under the rain?” The simple answer was I did not have to hunt down for the answer.
“Who and where is your boss”, I asked. “That car, he just came then gone”. The girl said.
Both surprise and happy, I was thinking, “Wow, this boss is so good in hospitality and sales too”. The thing was, the girl was so nice that, I now had no reason to refuse. I said, “Okay I am coming inside, let see what do you have, I want to eat some”. The girl brought along the tea inside . I check the cafe, they frankly did not have anything except some croissant, I guess, left from breakfast and lunch. They did not serve dinner, it was said on the board. I inconveniently chose an almond croissant.
The croissant was actually too sweet, but I enjoyed much the warm green tea. I did not expect to have delicious bakery in this kind of cafe though.
Then I had a few good chat with the waiter, a part-time college student, final year, studying philosophy. I liked her style, warm and calm. She said she is skillful now with the cappuccino machine. I also shared that we had a mini one too at home, but did not use often. I stayed and enjoyed the sweet surprise for almost an hour until the rain stopped.
Today, I came back to the coffee shop, not for croissant or tea, but to give the girl a gift – a book that I like much.
Đào Thu Hằng