Those of you who have followed my blog for a few years will recognize this story. I kind of like it for this month.
She hated her name, she hated this month, and above all she hated this rain! April clutched her handbag a little tighter to her chest as well as her slightly damp newspaper. It was just a few more steps before she could get out of this relentless rain and into her nice, warm coffee shop.
With a sigh April sat down at her usual table and smiled at the waitress. She knew what April always ordered and she would bring her a coffee and a warm croissant just like yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. When her coffee arrived April wrapped her chilly hands around the cup and breathed in the hot steaming aroma of freshly brewed coffee. It was coffee, it wasn’t a Grande non-fat latte with soy milk and half fat hazelnut vanilla shavings or something else bizarre. It was just coffee: good old black, strong coffee. For the first time that day she sighed and allowed herself to relax.
This was the time of day April enjoyed above all else. She could sit and relax over her cup of coffee, she could read the paper, and she could think about the day’s events: what she wanted to do, what she should do, and what she had done. As she was sipping her coffee and nibbling on her croissant the door opened and with it came a nasty, cold wet wind. And all April could do was think about how much she hated this month and shiver.
The person that came through the door and intruded on April’s musing was a man. Physically he was an attractive man: tall, well-built, muscular. But he had one glaring imperfection: he was smiling! The first words out of his mouth were the dreaded words that April had been hearing her whole life:
“April showers bring May flowers!” The man smiled and shook his umbrella causing more drops of cold water to infest the room. “I would like a cup of very hot, very strong, very ordinary coffee, if I may.”
April cringed, he was a happy man.
“I must admit I absolutely love the April showers.” The man positively exuded well-being. “The rain washes the world clean and leaves it smelling like spring. What could be more uplifting than a rainy day in spring?”
The waitress behind the counter chuckled to herself. She glanced over at April knowing full well that April was not a happy person in the morning and she didn’t enjoy other people being happy in the morning either. It seemed to interfere with her most comfortable state of miserable.
If the gentleman in question had simply picked up his coffee and exited the café the day would have continued in exactly the same manner as it always had. But this gentleman decided to stay and enjoy his coffee. He looked around the room and saw only one customer. Like a predator sensing fresh meat he moved towards April’s table.
“Excuse me Miss may I join you?” He asked pleasantly enough.
Without raising her head she replied, “I prefer to be alone, thank you.” Her answer was curt but not impolite.
“Nonsense, no one should drink their coffee alone.” And the man sat.
April looked up, too shocked to actually say anything. For the first time in her life her mind was blank. There was no witty retort on the tip of her tongue to spew forth and lash at this intrusive stranger. All she could do was stare and hope that the disdain on her face was clearly visible.
“As I said no one should drink their coffee alone and certainly not a beautiful woman.” He was still smiling. “And my name is Bill.”
April couldn’t stop staring. She knew that in polite company she should smile demurely and offer him her name. But she couldn’t do it. If she told him her name he would say what a thousand other people have said to her in that same happy tone: ‘April showers bring May flowers!’ She hated her name! She did consider coming up with an alias on the spot, something like Hermione or Persephone. But she couldn’t do it. She sighed, it was her lot in life and she was honest enough to accept the consequences.
“My name is April.”
As she said her name, April looked down at her coffee, her half eaten croissant and her unopened paper. She didn’t want to see the look on his face as he said those horrible words she had grown to hate. But one second turned in to two and then three and still he said nothing. So April raised her head and looked at him.
“I know what it’s like to have a name that is used in other contexts. I get called the bill collector, or asked if I have heard the joke about the Billboard. I could use the named William but it gives people pleasure to make silly little jokes about my name and it doesn’t cost me anything. People need a little silly in their lives and I am actually quite honoured that I can put a smile on someone’s face. It does get a little tedious sometimes but it’s still a smile.
April grimaced, “I find it tedious all the time! The rain is unceasing. The damp makes my hair frizzy, my clothes get wet, my feet are constantly cold and for someone to come up to me and sing that silly song about showers and May flowers it’s horrible!”
Bill took a sip of his steaming coffee and pondered what she had said for just a moment.
“Actually I think it’s quite wonderful that you remind people of the beauty that comes about because of the rain in April. You could say you’re an icon that helps people to remember the beauty that’s out there and that will soon be all around us because it’s the beginning of spring. I would think you’d be quite pleased.”
April heaved a sigh and shook her head.
“How can you be so happy with such horrible things going on in the world? People are dying in other countries for political agendas we can’t fully understand. People are getting mugged on the street for $20 in their wallet. There are starving children in this city not just in other countries of the world and we sit here drinking our coffee as if nothing was wrong. How can you justify that?”
Bill’s smile wavered just a fraction and he shook his head. “You can never justify the horrible things that are going on in the world. You can support the agencies that help those who are most in need. And you can honour those who are fighting to protect our way of life. You can live your life to the fullest and never forget that there were those who gave up their lives so that you and I could sit here and drink a cup of coffee in relative peace and security.”
April grasped her almost empty coffee cup tighter, her croissant and paper completely forgotten. “I can’t just shut off my mind with all the horrible things that are going on outside that door.” April was exasperated that this man didn’t understand. What right did she have to be happy?
Bill stared at this obviously distraught woman. There was more wrong here than just a individual’s dislike of a song. She was so caught up in what was wrong, evil, and hateful that she was missing the most important thing of all. He couldn’t leave this woman wallowing in this state, he had to open her eyes and make her see.
“April, I have just met you. Out of the blue I chose to walk into this café to sit at this table and to speak to you. Don’t you find it interesting that I would choose to come in today? I’ve walked by this café, a hundred times and never thought twice about coming in. But today of all days, I did. Maybe it was the rain that brought me in. Maybe you and I were meant to meet. Maybe in 50 years we will be telling our grandchildren about how I picked you up in a café.” Bill smile was quite lopsided at this point.
At first April was too stunned to respond. But somewhere deep inside her she did respond to this very strange, very attractive man. Somewhere deep inside her a smile was trying to burst through.
“Grandchildren? Now how do I know you’ve got the right stuff?”
Bill’s smile became even bigger. He knew he had made inroads.
“Is that a smile I see creeping up the side of your mouth? If it is, it is, I know it is, April you are smiling!”
April was almost smiling. Her hands were clutched around her coffee cup as if she was holding onto an anchor, trying desperately not to give in. She took a sip, and then looked up at her table companion.
“I know I tend to see the negative side of things, but we can never forget that the negative does exists.”
For the first time since he sat down at the table Bill stopped smiling.
“You are absolutely right April, we can never forget what horrible things are going on in this world. But it’s also very important that we never forget what an incredible world we actually have. There are good people here. Everywhere you turn. We should never turn a blind eye to what is bad in the world. By the same token, we must never turn a blind eye or be afraid to acknowledge that beautiful things exist. The simple act of the sun rising in the morning and its rays reflecting off the dew on a rose petal should make us give thanks.”
April looked at this strange man, this strange intruder, and she did smile. Maybe he was right. Maybe we need to be aware of the bad things in the world and focus on the good. It was raining today and it was cold. Maybe tomorrow the sun would shine. Maybe today was not the best of all days, but tomorrow might be. Maybe the showers did bring something good, something positive. There’s another song that April thought of at that moment. She didn’t remember the name of the song or who sang it. But there was one line: “. . . accentuate the positive.” That was a good thought.
Just at that moment, the rain stopped, and a ray of sunshine poked through the clouds. The sun and the rain work hand-in-hand. Just like we all should.
Two strangers met at a table in a café on a rainy April day, but parted as friends, smiling.