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The Coffee Shop
It’s days like today that I wish I had stayed in Ames. Sometimes it feels like people are in your way just for the hell of it. Just for fun of being inconsiderate, the taxi drivers plow through puddles, splashing the lonely girl walking by herself, causing her to jump out of the way and stumble awkwardly into a complete stranger. Just to make you feel even more invisible, people run right into you and never say a word because where they are going is that much more important than the girl they just knocked into the side of a building. I hang my head low as I meander aimlessly along the cold, damp sidewalk of Manhattan. I feel childish, targeting puddles with my boots and sloshing through them. Only school children play such games, not 24 year-old women with plenty of worthwhile 24 year-old woman things to do. I sighed, 24 year-old woman things like paying bills or getting a job. That’s what I should be doing right now, not playing games with the sidewalk.
For no apparent reason, and much to my surprise, I find myself turning into a down-tempo coffee shop, pulling off my trench coat and hanging it on the worn wooden coat rack. The place smells like fresh biscotti and too-strong coffee. The barely and cheaply carpeted floor is angled down slightly and I head towards the curve in the subterranean main room. The atmosphere is dark and kind of drab. Antique mirrors hang from the red wall and old movie chandeliers are suspended precariously from the ceiling. I smile at my favorite barista whom I see often but don’t know the name of and take a seat in my favorite corner where the Elvis Presley poster is giving me a crooked smile from across the room.
I twiddle my thumbs momentarily, before stealing a magazine from an empty neighboring table: The New Yorker. I wonder what my favorite author has prepared for me this time. Propping my faux-fur insulated rain boots up on a chair on the other side of the table, I sift through the magazine and begin to read the latest short story by D. Arthur Ray. He is such a beautiful writer. All of his stories are full of such insightful metaphors and beautiful prose – each word is like a carefully crafted kiss. That sounds cheesy, I know, but at least I didn’t say morphine practically drips from his pen, especially since he doesn’t even use a pen, he uses a computer. If he wrote a novel, I’d be the first to read it.
“Can I getcha anything?” A familiar voice hums from behind the cluttered coffee counter. I look up and see none other than my favorite barista (baristo?) leaning over the counter looking straight at me. He has this adorable mop of curly ash-blonde hair on top of his freckled face. His blue-grey eyes (not that I can tell their color from here, but I remember them because they are so beautiful, it’s hard to forget them) smile at me from across the room. He has this broad stature to him, like he was once a star football player in high school. I imagined his hands to be a mixture of soft and calloused. I hope he didn’t see me blush in the dark room.
“Sure, mocha with a shot of peppermint…and a banana nut muffin, thanks,” I smile at him. I promise myself that I will learn his name.
Soon after, he comes to the table that I have officially dubbed my table with my snack and I hand him a five dollar bill, “Keep the change,” I flash him a wide smile whilst sneaking a peak at his nametag, “Thanks, Kevin!” I say as he walks back to the counter.
I continue to read the paper while eye flirting with the blushing “Kevin K. – Assistant Manager”. I’m not sure how long this went on, me half reading the paper, half glancing at Kevin. Well maybe three quarters reading, one quarter flirting. Or maybe it was the other way around, one quarter D. Arthur Ray, three quarters Kevin K. I wondered what time he got off work, and if he would stay and chat or rush off time some hot date.
“Hey, do you mind if I sit here?” Someone, with a very attractive subtle British accent, asks.
“Hmm?” I look up, surprised.
The man laughs, “I said, do you mind if I sit here?” Wow he’s got a great smile.
“Oh, um, sure, go right ahead,” I hadn’t noticed how bust the coffee shop had gotten since my arrival.
I make an attempt to return to the reading of D. Arthur Ray’s gorgeous vignette, this week about a tortured artists living in upstate New York who is in love with the woman responsible for his parents divorce. I take a sip of my mocha as I read, savoring each word. I notice the man looking at me with a crooked grin.
“You’re a pretty studious reader,” he chuckles.
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“The way you follow the words with your eyes – your brow is all furrowed. You must be pretty into that article.”
“Well hello there stranger thanks for noticing,” I say. Oh I’m so sassy, I think.
“My name is Logan. What’s yours?”
“Amanda,” I say, annoyed, without looking up from my reading.
“There, we aren’t strangers anymore,” He says, I can almost hear him smiling. I look up, sighing in frustration at his stubbornness.
“Hi,” I say, tilting my head, plastered with one of those fake mean girl smiles.
“Is my being here bothering you?” he asks.
“Well I am trying to read and you are talking.”
“Alright I’ll pipe down,” he says, putting his hands behind his head and leaning back. I tap my foot impatiently. I feel his eyes on me. Stop looking at me. Stop looking at me.
His silence only lasts a few minutes, “What are you reading?”
“Second-Generation by D. Arthur Ray.”
“D. Arthur. Ray.” He annunciates each part of the name with amusement, “do you like his writing?”
“Yes, I do. I enjoy the reality of his writing and the way his descriptions of everyday things change my own perspective on life. Are you familiar with his writing?”
“You could say so,” he laughs, pausing as his eyes survey the room, “but I don’t like it.” The latter of his comment hit me like a punch in the stomach. I was extremely attached to my dear D. Arthur Ray, and no rude stranger could insult my favorite author.
“You don’t? Why not?”
“Because, his writing is just so dramatic.”
“Oh, quite the contrary! Have you ever read anything by him? It’s all very calm and realistic.”
“What are you reading? Second-Generation, you said? Isn’t that the one about the guy who loves the girl his father cheated on his mom with? Tell me when that happens in real life and tell me how that’s calm – it’s weird!”
“Fine, o.k. Point taken. But he isn’t a bad author.”
“Yes he is.”
“No, I’m pretty sure he isn’t.”
“Well let’s not fight over opinions, we are equally strong in our thinking,” he says, leaning over the table, half out of his chair. He proceeds to get up and walk over to the counter to order something. I take this as my chance to escape the company of the rude man. I close the magazine and shove it in my giant purse. I refer to my purse as the modern-day Mary Poppins bag – there’s an infinite amount of room in that thing. I get up to leave and notice something scribbled on a napkin. The words “call me” and a phone number are scrawled on it, with an uncapped pen on the table next to it.
No. I write back. With that, I leave the coffee shop.