In the coffeeshop I could hear her behind me, chatting with the coffeeman. She always ordered complicated things which required mixing and steaming and frothing and time.   Mocha latte java caffe.   I always ordered plain coffee, whatever they had in the pot on the counter, whatever was hot. Give the guy a buck, grab a cup and you're free to go.

When did I stop standing in line with her?

Whatever she had ordered that morning made the machine go thrumthrumthrum and she and the coffeeman had to raise their voices. They talked every morning and usually I did not listen, except for when she laughed and I could not help it. I sat near the window with my back to the room. Weak morning light and my cup hot between my hands, I was not thinking past those things until she screeched and I turned to see her covered in chocomochafroth, so hot, the coffeeman a horrified statue. She was not burned only shocked and soiled. She apologized for screaming.   No, no, you didn't mean - it's all right - no really   He gave her her money back and she put it in his tip jar.

On the way home to get her cleaned up, she took out her cellphone and called the store.   Might I speak to a manager. Yes. Yes, I have a compliment for one of your workers.   So professionally handled, she said. Very efficient, pleasant, polite. She thank-youed again and hung up. Shrugged at me.   I didn't want him to have a bad day about it.

And I saw there would never be that level of forgiveness for me. Oh, she was sweet.

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