Prologue

WILL LISTEN FOR LATTE

The words were neatly printed on the white cardboard sign on the third table from the door in Hometown Brew. Behind the sign sat a neatly dressed elderly gentleman, his hair (or lack of it) obscured by his grey newsboy cap, his light blue shirt offset by a maroon bowtie. His trimmed moustache was in the process of turning from gray to white; and his eyeglasses were square and black rimmed. A slender twenty-something woman dressed in blue jeans, a maroon scarf about her neck, approached. Her dark hair was pulled back, and she wore fashionable gray eyeglasses. “What is this exactly?” she asked him. “Exactly what it says,” said the man. “I’ll listen to you in exchange for a cup of latte.” “Are you a psychiatrist?” “Now, now. There’s no need to hurl insults.” “Oh!” The woman blushed slightly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t–” “Just yanking your chain,” he said, grinning. “Oh.” I still don’t get it,” she said. “Why are you doing this? Is this some perverted scheme to pick up women?” “Why, is it working? No, I always hear women complaining that men don’t really listen to them. They interrupt. They talk over them. They don’t take them seriously. I’m just hoping to redress the balance a little.” “That’s not like therapy?” “Maybe you’ll find it therapeutic,” he answered, “but I’m not trained for that. I don’t promise to solve your problems or repair your relationships,” he said. “I just promise to listen with- ” he pulled himself up straight in his chair – “my complete attention.” “How do I know you’re really listening and not thinking about a football game?” “That would be a serious breach of ethics.” “Whose ethics?” “Mine.” She looked him up and down for a minute, looking for chinks in the armor. “Okay,” she said. “How do you take your coffee?” “Latte. A small is fine.” “When you finish a small, does that mean my time is up? Maybe I should order a medium,” she said. “A small. If you have more to say, the second latte is on me.” Ten minutes later she was back with his latte and her own cappuccino. She sat across the table from him and stirred her drink.