Understanding Character

at Joe's

I walked toward the door of Joe’s thinking my worries were over. Not that my stomach didn’t twist a bit. That Guy might be there. But that was silly. He’d had one disagreement with the owners, been accused of bothering female customers, it is only in my writer imagination that he’d be in there.

I open the side door and can see Barista M. at the counter and I can see That Guy out of the corner of my eye sitting at my favorite table. My stomach drops. He knows I complained about him.

Barista M. looks at me wide-eyed. I get the counter. That Guy is sitting perhaps six feet behind me. M. leans in and says, “He’s here.”

“I know. Um, I’ll a…” I get my wallet out.

“You want me to make him leave?” she asks.

I shake my head. He isn’t doing anything. He has a right to be there if he isn’t bothering anyone and I don’t want a scene.

“Are you okay?” she asks.

I think about my dogs, taking Sundae back to the shelter, my Porter Dog diagnosed with a heart condition and could go into cardiac failure at any time, my school with my classes at overcapacity, my student crying everyday on the edge of a breakdown, my husband’s food poisoning last week and son’s near concussion, the afternoon of arguing with my son, and I don’t have any time to write because I’m swapped with papers to grade, and I don’t want to face some guy who’s got his ego out of whack.

M offers to let me have a room all to myself. The coffee house has three rooms, the main room, the cellar, and the boardroom. People can reserve the two side rooms for meetings or events. The cellar was closed of because they’d been redoing the floor. “You can have the whole room to yourself. They finished it today but we weren’t going to open it until tomorrow.”

“That’s not necessary. I’ll take my latte.” I hand her my coffee card. She doesn’t take it. “No. I got it. Are you sure you’re okay? You look upset.”

I tap the coffee card on the counter. I tell her about the dogs and my son’s bad mood and I don’t forget That Guy is 6 feet behind me facing the counter. M and I talk. She makes my latte. Then she says, “Wait here.” She zips out from behind the counter and around the coffee house. She finds a table in the boardroom out of sight of my favorite table. She carries my coffee for me as I lug my purse, computer bag, and stack of papers to grade. “I’ll make him leave,” she says.

I shake my head.

ABout 10 minutes later M comes into the room to tell me That Guy has left. “Are you sure?” I ask. “He said bye,” she replies.

I go to my favorite table, a while later two friends show up and join me. We have fun talking while I grade grammar tests.

Later, M tells me the owners had also talked to That Guy about his coming in, sitting at a table for hours, and not buying anything.

That was all last night. This afternoon I stopped by Joe’s again for a quick coffee before picking up my son from school. Different baristas were working. “Hey,” says Barista S., “did you hear we kicked That Guy out?”


Barista K nodded. “L. did it. He was acting weird…”

“Looking at women,” added S. “L. made him leave.” He swings his arms for emphasis.

“Um, when?” I ask.

“Days ago.”


S. nods. “Yeah.”

“But he was here last night,” I say.

Both S. and K. say, “What?!”

“You mean, ” I say snapping the lid on my coffee, “he got thrown out and he still came back? Sh*t. Sh*t. Sh*t. Who the hell does that?”

“We’re talking to D,” says S.

“He knows I complained, you know,” I say. I tell them D. let him know it was me who complained.

“That’s bad,” S. said, shaking his head. “D. doesn’t think sometimes.”


If I were writing a story about a guy like this, I’d know his motivation. I’d know what he wanted and why. If you wrote a story about a guy like this, what would you have his motivation be?

10 thoughts on “Understanding Character

  1. Good grief! This guy is really scary! To come back after being kicked out, at a time when he knew you’d be there – wow. What’s his motivation? He doesn’t like it when women reject him, and he’s going to show them he won’t be pushed around.

    In all serious Marta, please tell me you’re armed. If not with a gun that you’ve taken classes on how to use, at the very least with a can of pepper spray. This guy is a whack job and unpredictable. How do you know he didn’t follow you home one of those nights? Not trying to scare you, but man, he reeks of Bundyness.

    1. Well, I don’t know anything about using a gun, so no. I can’t tell you what you want to hear. But, I don’t think he’s followed me. I could be wrong, but to get away with following me, he’d have to stay waaaaay back with his headlights off. He does some kind of work for the DPS, so if he’s found out my last name, he could look up my driver’s license… possibly. But I try not to get too crazy. He certainly has dug in his heels, though I do not know what to think.

  2. Maybe if your DH went with you next time, it would be enough to drive home the point that you are not a woman alone. Also, you might want to talk to the cops, just to see what your options are and to get help formulating an emergency plan.

    1. I may have the husband come with me next time, but I don’t think I’d want my son with me (because if the guy really is crazy, he doesn’t need to know who my son is) so we’d have to find a place for the kiddo to hang out for a while.

      Talking to the police seems unlikely. I mean, what would I say? He gave me his phone number and now I feel weird? Well, actually, my neighbor is a policeman. Maybe I will talk to him.

  3. Christy

    I agree with Sherri about talking to the police. I mean, come on! If he works for the DPS and is a stalker, he probably shouldn’t be working for the DPS!! I’m so sorry to hear about all the heavy stuff going on in your life right now. If you need someone to listen, I would be more than happy to be that person!!

    I’m not imaginative enough to think of new motives for a story, so I would probably use one that has been done a thousand times. Perhaps he’s looking for an estranged family member, or he’s with the FBI. Yeah, I know, not too imaginative!

    1. Christy, they say there are only 7 stories in the world. Everything is in what you do with them. That’s where the imagination comes in–and I believe everyone has an imagination. Some people have simply let their wither. A little work, stretching exercises and presto! Imagination marathon!

      I’ll talk to my neighbor a policeman and see what he says about this DPS guy…

  4. That Guy is crossing a line repeatedly and is now daring you to do something about it. He’s showing up at your favorite place when he knows you’ll be there, he’s sitting at your favorite table, and he’s forcing you to make adjustments. Meanwhile, the well-meaning BONEHEAD owners don’t announce to their staff in a broad-spectrum way to keep That Guy off premises. He has no right to be in a private establishment which has asked him nicely NOT to be there.

    At the same time, it’s incumbent on them to do something to stop him and that might escalate the situation. If the barista who asked you if you wanted her to kick him out KNEW he wasn’t supposed to be there, why did she wait for you to show up to do something about it? These people don’t seem to have two brain cells to rub together.

    *Sigh* If he has access to your private information things can be a little scarier. No gun? Better think about one. Or that pepper spray, at least. and YES, please talk to the police to find out what you can do. (I suspect their advice is going to sound a lot like “stay away from where you know he’ll be.”)

    Good luck. You don’t need this kind of stress. Who does? We’re pulling for you.

    1. The barista on the night I was there did NOT know he’d been kicked out. She really wanted to kick him out. But I was afraid she’d open themselves up to a lawsuit if she did. Why she wasn’t told he’d been banned, I don’t know. This isn’t an excuse, but I will say that most all the baristas are young 20-something college kids, and communicating properly to everyone is rather scattershot. I can sympathize with that since the place I work has dreadful communication. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taught a student for weeks before I found the student had been asked to leave the school for failure to pay or something.

      But, of course, since this might be a dangerous situation, they ought to be better about it. But this is the first time they’ve ever dealt with such a person, and I think everyone is a bit at a loss what to do.

      I do not know if he has access to my information. He shouldn’t know my last name. I’m sure the police would tell me to stay away from where he knows I’ll be. I HATE THAT. I have to lose my favorite hangout because of some twit? Maddening. I can’t imagine me with a gun. I’d just as likely be shot with my weapon. The gun solution isn’t for me. I can’t go down that road. As for pepper spray… I’ll think on that.

      Now, see. All this talk about guns has got me imagining a shoot out at Joe’s. That really stresses me out. I might really be too afraid to go back.


  5. What would be cool would be a secret entrance to Joe’s, perhaps through an underground passageway, which put you in a secret back room with a one-way mirror through which to observe the rest of the place. You and your friends (and others similarly creeped out) could hang out there.

    Hope you’ve been doing well otherwise. This may be a ticklish subject but have you been able to write anything much lately? Sounds like it’s been an INCREDIBLY busy/distracting few months for you!

    1. I’d love to have secret entrances everywhere!

      And no, I’ve not written anything. Well, I wrote a little slip of a thing for my Halloween witches (and posted it over at Lake Belle). And I wrote a story about a month ago for a commission… Okay, and Tuesday night I edited one fairy tale.

      But I’ve done nothing substantial. Today, I talked to a student about the publishing industry and was not too pleased to hear myself explain the query process and why I hadn’t submitted a thing in oh so long.

      My frustration level is rather high.

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