STRANGER AT A COFFEE HOUSE

May 11, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured

Written by

Ligiah Villalobos

A few years ago, I went through a very painful experience.   Finding out that the guy you’re in love with is sleeping with someone else has a way of making you lose all self-confidence.  Your heart feels empty and hollow.  You feel unattractive, worthless, miserable.

On this particular day, I had spent the entire day crying and going on an emotional roller coaster that seemed never-ending.

I took a shower, hoping that would help me clear my head.  It didn’t.   So, I decided to get out of the house and go to my usual coffee house in Venice, California where I went to write.  Maybe a change of scenery would be good for the soul.  I called a friend and asked him to meet me there.

I arrived at The Novel Café with my hair still soaking wet, no make-up and puffy eyes from all the tears I had shed that day.  I got myself a cup of chamomile tea and sat at a table to write while I waited for my friend.

Soon after, a man walked in – a stranger, no one I had ever seen before.  But he reminded me of the man who had just broken my heart – dark-skinned, dreadlocks, Venice vibe.  The man walked up to the counter, ordered his drink and turned to look at me.  I could feel him staring but I didn’t look up.  He came toward me, standing almost in front of me for what seemed like a lifetime but in reality it was only a few seconds.  Finally, he found a chair across from me, sat down and opened a big book.

But, I still felt his eyes on me and could tell he wasn’t reading the book.  I started to feel very uncomfortable – there are lots of strange people in Venice and at this coffee house, they were regulars.  I was really anxious for my friend to get there.

Finally, my friend arrived.  He asked me how I was doing.  I started to cry.  I then began to give him all the details of the break-up.  The more I talked, the more I cried.

Half way through our conversation my friend said, “You know, there’s someone across from you pretending to read a book but actually looking straight at you?”  I explained that the stranger had been doing that for the last half hour.  My friend then said, “That’s Venice for ya, just a bunch of losers with nothing else to do.”  For some reason his comment made me cry even more.  I felt like one of those losers.  I asked my friend if we could leave.  The man was making me too uncomfortable.

As we walked out, we passed right by him.  He made eye contact with me then lowered the big book he had on his lap, wanting me to see what was on it.  I nervously looked down and to my surprise I saw two pages that were covered with amazing pencil drawings of me.

There was one of me writing, a second one capturing me as I ran my fingers through my wet hair and a third one of me looking out the coffee house window, deep in thought.  He was not reading at all, he had been sketching me the whole time.  My friend and I were speechless.  The drawings were absolutely stunning.

The man didn’t say a word to me, he only smiled.  I quickly walked out, too much in shock to even say, thank you.

Since then, I have gone back to that coffee house dozens of times and have never seen him again.  But that night, this complete stranger gave me a gift of kindness when I most needed it.  He was able to go beyond my outward appearance and see my soul.  He saw something beautiful in me when I couldn’t.

As I walked out with my friend and into the night, I began to cry, completely overwhelmed by the experience.

My heart was full again.

Ligiah Villalobos is the Writer and Executive Producer of the feature film Under the Same Moon, (La Misma Luna). The film was an Official Selection at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and became the highest sale for a Spanish-language film in the history of Sundance.

Villalobos has been named “One of the 25 Most Powerful and Talented Hispanic Women in the Entertainment Industry” by the Hollywood Reporter and Billboard Magazine in 2007 and was recently honored with the 2008 Norman Lear Writers Award at the Imagen Awards.

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