I get my tray from the hand-off plate and bring my cake and coffee to the seat by the window. With a relish, I take up my fork, excited about the mix of flavors my tongue was about to enjoy. Ah, mango cheesecake and French-pressed Colombian coffee, the perfect combination. Just the thing to keep the bad vibes away on a particularly difficult day like today.
I am just about to get a bite of my cake, when a familiar yet unpleasant voice calls out to me. “Hey Lee! How’s it going?”
I take a deep breath, praying for patience as vast as the ocean. This is not the right time for Greg to come by, but alas, there is little to be done.
I turn to him with a restrained smile. “Hey Greg. I’m just enjoying some alone time. Now if you’ll excuse me…”
“Oh yeah, alone time is great.” He touches my arm in a friendly manner, and I try not to pull away. “It helps you think, you know? Really helps you reflect on your life. What did Socrates say about that? ‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ Yep, that’s the one. Good on you, buddy.”
I nod curtly. “Indeed. So I’d like to reflect on my life alone-”
“Yeah, me too. I usually do that by the park myself, while staring at the green, green grass and the ever-flowing lake.” He pulls up a nearby stool and plops it right beside mine. I bite my lip and put down my fork as gently as I can before I stabbed anyone. “Really great setting to calm your feelings and think about things. It’s like that guy who said, ‘Trust yourself. You know more than you think you do.’ Because wow, sometimes the answers are just in you; you just really need to stop and think about things.”
“Yes. I agree completely.” I smile at him as warmly as I could. “And now, I’ve got a cheesecake to eat and coffee to drink. So I’ll catch you later, all right?”
“Oh, yes, of course.” Much to my relief, he stands up. “How thoughtless of me.” He finally gets it! “Let me go and get something to drink too.”
And with that, he moves to the counter, looking over the menu board.
I grit my teeth and take my tray back to the hand-off plate. “Package these for takeout, please,” I say to the barista by the bar. She nods at me with a bright smile and takes my tray away. I drum my fingers at the bar as I wait.
He comes to me, surprised. “Oh, Lee, you going? I thought we were going to share a cup.” He seems a little disappointed.
I grit my teeth. “Oh, no, all that talk you said about the park made me think that it would be better to have coffee there. So, I was thinking of heading there, really.”
The barista comes over with my cake and coffee ready to go, just as another one hands Greg his. He nods at me.
“Well then, let’s go there together. It seems like a great day out, too.”
I take a deep breath and clench my coffee and cake tightly. I can feel the hot coffee trickle down my hand. But I try one last time.
“I was hoping to have the afternoon to myself, Greg. I just wanted-”
“Oh, is something the matter? That’s all right, friend. I’m here to listen to you all you want.”
“No, no, it’s fine. I’m here for you.”
With an exasperated sigh, I turn away from the man with a face I so want to slap and move to the door. He hurries ahead of me and holds it open for me. I grit my teeth and smile at him, and he smiles back.
Oh well, at least I still have my cake and coffee, I guess. I shrug.
He closes the door behind him with a bang, and I jump in surprise, dropping my takeout.
“Oh Lee, I’m so sorry-“
I shake my head and walk away, not looking back in case I actually punch the guy.
Image source: deviantart.com/sanjadotaart/art/Coffee-and-Cake-593040173
First written March 14, 2018.
In The Coffee Shop, #14