Cafe Surveillance

By Elliot Adams

Subject 1 is a male in his late forties. On his upper lip he proudly carries a greyed Bulgarian-style moustache that he twirls at the corner like a silent film villain. The stale odour of his tweed jacket can be smelt from across the room. Searching his pockets for coins he orders a ‘large black coffee’ valiantly avoiding the Italian monikers such beverages have adopted. He lowers himself to his seat with yesterday’s copy of the times and a snort of jingoist derision at the Brusselsian shenanigans detailed on its cover. Subject 1 remains in this position while his drink cools, only looking up from the newspaper to disinterestedly glance over the faces of customers as one might in a portrait gallery.

Subject 2 is named Soheil, a soul-patched alpha hipster in a herd of four. Soheil’s deliberately ironic Che Guevara t-shirt is overlaid with the Transformers decepticon symbol – ironic xmas sweaters and ironic 80’s bandshirts are the uniform for his followers. He orders a masala chai latte extra hot, upon serving his drink the barista asks ‘hot asian?’, to which he responds ‘thanks for noticing, I try my best’ – A premeditated exchange, no-one who knows tea well enough to specify a masala chai would otherwise drink it ‘extra hot’. Tapping out one of his Parliament cigarettes he puffs out a few fuck-yous to anti-smoking laws hidden under a Keffiyeh – scarves worn by Jewish students to show solidarity with Palestinians, now sold as a topshop fashion accessory. As Subject 2 complains to his friends about the ‘unauthenticity’ of coffee shops the reanimated corpse of counter-culture eats itself. Probably ironically.

Subject 3 has the finest facial hair of this observation session, wearing a full face beard with green highlights that match those in his ponytail. He appears to be dressed for a day’s hunting in full woodland-camouflage print clothing and tattered old combat boots folded down at the top. His knuckles are tattooed in gothic script, one letter per finger, spelling out ‘K N I T’ on one hand and ‘P U R L’ on the other. He orders a large tea to go, reading the back of a Keith Jarrett CD that he removes from his pocket, probably The Köln Concert. These details suggest that he is a hunter with excellent taste in Jazz piano who relaxes with needlecraft; a brief conversation reveals two of these things to be true. He returns outside with his drink and unties a frayed-about-the-edges leash to release his equally frayed-about-the-edges German Shepard, which picks up its paw to allow him to pick out the snow packed uncomfortably between its toes – an authentic moment of trust and compassion.


  1. Sounds like a very odd coffee shop… Nicely written though, sounds a bit like James Ellroy if he had a sense of humour.

  2. “the reanimated corpse of counter-culture eats itself. Probably ironically.”
    great line! this whole piece is really well written, nice work!

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