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Tales from the Coffee Shop

A Tale of Two Couples

by Greg Sherk

This article appeared in the September 1995 issue of M.E.N. Magazine


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My current book project is proving more than cathartic. Interviewing other male sexual assault survivors is dragging to my mind's surface memories I thought long-buried. I find myself again looking at powerful women with suspicion. Life is again becoming drab and grey. So to pick myself up, I tried to find some beauty somewhere in my life.

Now, I hang out in coffee shops. Spend lots of quality time sitting, swilling coffee and yammering. So that's where I looked for some beauty. I found some.

First, Chuck and Terry. Chuck is ugly. When you look in the dictionary under ugly man, you find Chuck's picture. He is also a paraplegic: no leg movement at all and limited movement in the left arm. Chuck is no dummy. He has a degree in history, but can no longer work due to his injuries.

Terry is beautiful. Picture Meg Ryan's smile on the woman of your dreams. She's tall, blonde, svelte and smart. Plus, she is a veterinarian: specializes in racehorses. Smart, beautiful and well-off.

Chuck and Terry just announced their engagement. They've been seeing each other in the various coffee shops around town for several years. Slowly they started talking. Slowly, friendship became a daily thing. Friendship has now blossomed into love. I saw them this morning, laughing and holding hands in Sam's Donuts. They make a cute couple. Sometimes the frog does get the princess.

This frog and princess have a tough adjustment ahead of them. Chuck will have to improve his cooking skills. Terry wants children. But I think they'll make it. I look forward to seeing Chuck, kids in tow behind his chair.

Next, I'm sitting in Cro's a few weeks back. There's this big biker sitting with a woman at the next table. He is as black as can be, has a scar running down his left cheek and looks like the meanest, nastiest, dirtiest person in the world. She is this tiny, mousy-looking young white woman, dressed in a tube top and jeans. She's clean and looks like the girl next door.

He has his arm around her: they're carefully looking at the "Life" section of the Toronto Star. And then I hear their conversation. He says, "Okay honey, sound it out," to which she replies, "The pone company ..." He carefully puts his hand on her wrist and says, "Honey, look at the word. What sound does 'P H' make?"

He's teaching her to read from the newspaper. Do I ever feel like a jackass: I judged him on his colour and looks to be nasty. Yet, here he is being tender and supportive. Here he is carefully teaching his partner to read.

I ran into him several days ago in another coffee shop, got a chance to get to know him. He's a mechanic, has his Class A license, his propane ticket and his natural gas ticket.

The young lady is his fiancée. He is furious at the Niagara school board for letting her graduate from high school without being able to read. We had a real good "TRASH THE SCHOOL BOARD" coffee-swilling session. He's talking about running for the school board in the next election. Due to race, the scar and his education, he'll have a hard time with a campaign. I'll support him. I'll choose a mechanic who cares about reading over a lawyer who cares about procedures.

So, there is beauty out there. To quote from our Christian friends, "... whatever is pure, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things."

It's sad to be at a place in life where only these extremes allow me to see the pure, lovely and noble. I look forward to a day when I'll see beauty in the mundane. Until then, there are extremes to shed light into a dark mind.

Greg Sherk, from Toronto, is writing a book for male sexual assault survivors. He also runs an Internet mailing list for male SA survivors.


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