A Thai woman walked through the morning door at the coffee shop. Dressed in black jeans and a white buttoned-down shirt, she paused and turned to me. She smelled like hay.
“May I sit down here?”
I nodded my head. Her hair, long and straight, curved slightly at each end. Despite her smell, she glowed like a wild and dark angel whose light gave me more fear than peace. With only a small table and my black coffee there, we remained isolated to the rest of the crowd.
“I saw a big crow this morning.”
I remained in my seat with my book in my lap and realized she wanted to speak. But about birds? A crow? What?
She continued without even waiting for a reply.
“In my country, seeing a crow is bad news. It is a sign. I followed it here, and it spoke to me.”
Suddenly, I glanced into her eyes. They were not brown or black but covered with fog as though she had cataracts or was possessed by some ghost. I closed my book and shifted my body.
“What did you say? A crow?”
“She led me to you.”
Confused, I continued listening. It is not every day that an apparently crazy woman from an Asian country walks into a coffee shop and begins such a conversation with a stranger. Intrigued, I listened.
“A crow led you here, did she?”
“Listen to me. I don’t have time. Your throat is covered in black. It is a hideous darkness. Your speech wreaks pain in everybody you know. You will die soon says the crow.”
“What? What are you talking about? I am a nice guy.”
“Move away from me. Don’t touch me.” Her finger pointed at me as though I were about to strangle her, even though I only bent my body slightly toward her to whisper my words. Her face looked frightened. The glow of her cheeks turned pale, and she was seeing something in me I couldn’t see. Apparently, I was the crow.
She stood up in the cafe. She hissed at me and then said, “You will die if you do not change!”
I looked around the cafe but nobody seemed to notice the crazy woman yelling accusations at me. Was she schizophrenic? Where is the closest hospital? Is she going to attack me?
So many thoughts flooded my mind, but for some reason, I was more interested in proving to her my goodness than her silly accusation that I would die. My throat like black coal? To hell with her!
“Just go away!” I screamed. “Go home. I have had enough of your game.”
“You are the game. You play with people.” Her legs moved her back toward the door. “You treat people with anger. They despise you. You are hurting them with your words. With your looks. With your body. With every note of sound coming forth from your throat. You are the black crow! And, if you are not careful, boom. You will be shot!” She made the hand motions of a shotgun and laughed.
“You’re crazy, woman!”
“I must go now,” she said. “You must change. You must go today to your priest and make amends. You must ask for forgiveness.”
“You are filthy,” she hissed.
The word, forgiveness, remained locked in my chest. As she said that word, I flenched. My book fell to the floor, and as I reached to pick it up, the Asian woman dissolved in thin air. I could still hear the hissing, however, in my ears.
I looked around the cafe, but only the regular crowd remained sipping on their lattes and typing on their computers. I frantically looked in all directions. I stood up and looked outside.
There! Right there on the sidewalk stood a large black crow next to my vehicle. When my eyes pointed directly into the crow’s view, she looked at me with fierce, cloudy eyes and then flew toward the electrical lines. She passed a few buildings and then turned south away from my view. Her wingspan looked larger than all crows I have ever seen!
Meanwhile, I returned to my chair. My throat cold. My palms sweaty. I coughed and crossed my arms to comfort my tightening chest. Reaching to touch my throat, I suddenly had a flash of every memory of me speaking or writing negative speech to others. Memories flashed so bright I could barely see.
My head collapsed into my lap, and I began to tear up in the coffee shop. My coffee, half filled, rested on the table next to me. She, too, was black. Quickly, I stood up and walked to the bar with coffee cup in hand. Grabbing the container of milk, I poured half and half into the cup and watched white swirls of innocence mix with the coffee’s black edges.
Nauseated, I realized I had work to do. I sipped from the cup and washed the coffee down my throat like drano.
I returned to my chair and said a silent prayer to every person I ever hurt.