Mission Hello by journalism student Sarah Al Saeid

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Jennat would always place the same order.

The four walls of her room have always been her sanctuary, but even those at times felt too suffocating. Baby Hassan crying did not make it any better. That was her cue; she knew she had to get out.

“Should we?” She asked.

“Whatever you’re comfortable with,” I replied.

I watched her pack her belongings. Laptop goes first, then her notebook along with her headphone case. The chargers and cables however, they always go last. 

She neatly coiled the cables and placed them slowly in her handbag. The adapter created a bulge that she knew she could feel when she drapes the bag on her shoulder. She took the charger out, removed the cable from the adapter, and placed them both back in. 

On our short drive down to the local coffee shop, she told me she hopes for several hours of uninterrupted productivity. 

“Dude,” she said chuckling. 

“The worst would be a good cup of coffee and a change of scenery.”

We arrived, parked and headed into the café. 

Standing before the counter, she whispered to me. 

“It’s so overpriced.”

“Get the yogurt granola cup you got last week.”

“God forbid I order the same thing twice.”

The coffee shop runs were part of a meticulous routine, that I crafted, and she perfected. Her routine unlike me, started at home. 

Lunch is served prior to leaving the house. The distress of scavenging through the overpriced menu made her establish a solid itinerary. 

She eats; she leaves before the food coma kicks in; she arrives; she finishes half of her work, and then and only then would she award herself with a cup of coffee. 

“I declare myself as rightfully deserving of that coffee,” she said as we were heading downstairs to order. 

“You would’ve deserved it half an hour ago too.”

I sat on one of the chairs as I was waiting for her to order. 

The barista greeted her, and her regular “hello, how are you? How is it going?” was cut short. 

“You’re not from here are you?” the young man asked. 

“Well… not really. Why?” she asked.

Her face was puzzled. As she was checking her Abaya, I could tell she thought she blended in well with the crowd. 

“I’ve been working in this coffee shop for seven years, and no one has ever asked me how I’m doing,” the young man said with a sad smile. 

His reply took her by surprise. She paused for a couple of seconds as she was gathering her thoughts. During the last 10 years of our friendship, nothing ever made her stutter. Nothing could hold her back, let alone have her groping for the right words only to be rendered speechless.  

How could something so trivial, so offhanded, so second-nature to her have this momentous effect on this man? 

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

Our coffee runs did not stop, and her mission began. Jennat is now the annoying customer that makes the queue reach the entrance. 

In the Notes application, I watched her type. 

“Mathew, 27, from Nigeria. He had a tribal tattoo that he got at [in] Thailand when he went there with his friends.”