This story is 100% true.
  1. I used to work in Soho
    That is, Soho, London, not one of the world's other myriad Sohos. Soho, unlike the rest of Central London, is fantastic - a perfectly enclosed section of great bars, old pubs, restaurants and good chat. I worked on Berwick Street at a tea shop called Yumchaa, and loved it.
  2. It was Spring, and I was closing
    The shop was a light trap, and at the end of the day sun would flood in, it was beautiful. The cafe was emptying out, and I was tidying up, bussing tables, etc.
  3. A man enters, he is The American
    Creased hat, loose collar, long coat, he looked like a sad detective at the end of a long day. I clocked him, as I had been taught to do, and he walked over.
  4. "Coffee"
    He said. This is not a helpful thing to order. Coffee is a many and varied thing. I asked for clarification.
  5. "Black coffee!"
    Now I got what he meant and also that he was rude, so in situations like this I usually just take the money and curse him under my breath. I didn't, I asked if he wanted cake, or muffins.
    He is angry now. I have kept him waiting for his coffee. I am not in the mood for a fight, it's a nice evening, sometimes you roll with the punches. I make his black coffee, take his money, and leave him be.
  7. The American sits
    At a table by the window, alone, sipping coffee and staring outside. I carry on cleaning up.
  8. Minutes later...
    The American returns! His face, it is pleasant, warm, he has smile lines. This is a man who has worked, you can tell, and I imagine his stories of, yknow, just being an American! To a boy from a small Welsh town raised on a diet of Dylan, Springsteen, and the like, being an American is just about the coolest thing in the world. Still is.
  9. "I'm gonna tell you a secret..."
    The American leaned in, and time stood still. Two women exited, and he looked at them, before turning to me and saying these words: "There ain't nothing prettier, than a pretty lady"
  10. Exit The American
    He tipped his creased hat, left half his coffee, and walked out into the Soho evening. I think about this interaction at least once a week.