The windows of the coffeehouse
are fogged from the exhalations of its numerous patrons. Whenever the store gets crowded like this, it always takes longer to clean at the end of the shift
. Tonight’s high density, due in part to the popularity of the 8:35 train, will cover the glass in odorous breath, finger grime, and minute flakes of cigarette ash. Melanie experiences a momentary spurt of anger before realizing that her newly acquired position of supervisor
will allow her to pass off the unenviable task of cleaning said windows to one of the new hires. She is sitting on an empty milk carton reading a store copy of Prozac Nation
that she has every intention of stealing for the purpose of continued study. The door announces its opening with a loud whack against the corrugated black aluminum
that makes up the entranceway.
A slight rightward inclination of the head reveals to Melanie the presence of a boy, impressive only by the fact that he is the first customer to enter in the last ten minutes. The boy, who will herein be referred to as K., shuffles on the floor mat as though scraping snow off his shoes. He most likely thinks that his coy glance at the seated redhead went unnoticed, but very little escapes her vision, which is a fact that her employees learned with the necessary speed. The quick look over the bar maneuver has caused Melanie’s thin framed glasses to slide down on her small nose, an inadequate perch for the wearing of such an ocular device. She has, of course, noticed every delightfully awkward movement of the frumpy looking boy since his decidedly ungraceful entrance into the store. His loping gait, the frightened tortoise peeking out of its shell way in which he removed his hood, the ever so slightly trembling hand brushing away strands of crow black hair from a thin, almost sickly face—all was immediately soaked in through her spongy powers of observation. Laying the book cover down with its pages carelessly sliding into a puddle of mop water, she uncrosses her checkered pant clad legs and stands to do her job.
Hand fumbling into his pocket for the chain wallet that has fallen out and is now dangling alongside his leg, K. is distracted from his backlit menu reading at the sight of this new girl. K. has the momentary concern that she might mistake his subtle glance at her nametag as a more lewd “checking out” of Melanie’s considerably attractive body, but chooses to flush this thought from his head. Moving his eyes to her face, K. makes the tragic mistake that never leads to good things—he looks her in the eye. Never look them in the eye. That is how foolish, wispy thoughts are born that lead to more embarrassing situations like rapid gaze averting and uncontrollable leg twitching. Green eyes are the worst and Melanie has them in spades. The shoulder length brilliant red framing the pale face with cute button nose and thin, utterly desirable lips certainly don’t help matters any. And the glasses—kid, you’re hooked, he thinks and he’s right, of course. K.’s now almost epileptic hand finally takes hold of the wallet bouncing against his jangling leg and manages to prop it open on the counter.
“May I take your order?” His angel hath spoken.
“Um, well, yes, of course.” Quick, pick something, comes the agitated mental voice he hates more than anything. “Two double caramel mocha fraps, please.” What did he just say? He hates caramel and anything with that much espresso will send him into the bathroom with the OUT OF ORDER sign before he so much as takes three sips.
“No problem.” Melanie secretly wonders whether that suspicious second drink may be for her. She finds the twittering boy in front of her oddly intriguing. Different than the typical, ‘well versed in thinly veiled cross-counter flirtations’ types that are her usual customer. Plus, the fact that he has a notebook not so well concealed in the large front pockets of the hooded sweatshirt might be indicative of a kindred spirit. “What’s that?” She motions with the coffee scooper toward the notebook, which is now perilously close to falling onto the tiled floor.
“Oh, this? Nothing really, just a little something I’m working on for a friend.”
“You’re a writer?” Bingo. Do I know how to spot ‘em or what, she congratulates herself. The unusual excitement this revelation brings causes Melanie to falter slightly in her coffee making ritual. Normally, she can hold a polite conversation with the customer and mix a drink without spilling a bean. Strange that this awkward boy has caused such a disruption.
“Only sometimes. Not really something I’d consider myself.” That sentence actually came out relatively stammer free. K. is pleased with the unexpected turn of events, considering the confrontation with this most dazzling of coffeehouse baristas. “See, I have this thing where I send notebooks to people with the idea that we’ll both fill them for each other with tons of good words and then exchange, leaving the other with a sizable chunk of one’s soul.”
“That’s interesting. I’d love to try something like that.” The false confidence of K.’s response had not escaped her net of intuition. It’s obvious to Melanie that he is harboring some level of attraction toward her. Though this may seem presumptuous on her part, she is very often the recipient of lame pick up lines and slyly given phone numbers. Most of the time this unprovoked reaction is extremely irritating, but for once Melanie is thinking that she kind of finds it endearing. “Two double caramel mocha fraps.”
Melanie places the drinks on the counter with the kind of thud that means business; the heavy gavel type thunder that the accused fears and the judge relishes in the ecstatic moment that justice is freshly served. At least, this is how it seems to K. in his frothy, sugar sweet state of hormone induced mania. Crumpled bills and rusty change clatter onto the counter while the register dings open and Melanie moves to complete their transaction. K. notices Prozac Nation swimming in its puddle on the floor.
“Your book is getting soaked in a veritable flood of dirty water.” Melanie utters a barely audible expletive and picks it up, pages useless, ink smudged beyond legibility. “If you want, I could let you borrow my copy. I’ll come back with it later.”
“Really? You’d be my hero.” She curses herself again and jots a mental note to up her efforts to purge that phrase from her daily vocabulary. Two swears in the same conversation—something must be setting her on edge.
“It’s no problem, you understand. I have two copies anyway. It’s my favorite book.”
“Then I’ll see you later?”
K. takes his purchases and lopes over to a dark table in the corner. Melanie decides it’s time for a ten-minute break. Sitting down, K. produces the notebook from his pocket and begins to scrawl a spontaneous description of her, lest he forget his initial impressions. He almost doesn’t notice when she sits down in the chair across from him.