I went for it; "You come here often?"
"You come here often?" I tried again, a slight whine in my voice.
"Every night except Sunday at the moment," she replied.
"Ah, right." i couldn't remember if my first line had been intended as a joke. "Sounds tough." I was grasping.
"Y-----up." She wasn't looking at me anymore.
"Well, you know, tough work ... deserves ... tough ... love ...?" Was that a statement or a question? I should've really committed to one inflection.
She seemed distracted and didn't reply.
"And, you know, I'm kinda tough ... and I got a whole lot o-"
"Sorry, excuse me, I've got other customers. Enjoy your drink."
She was gone before I'd finished sifting through a jumbled thought mix of words like 'thanks', 'tough', 'date' and 'barnacle'. I took the no-longer-scolding-hot coffee in my hands and went to find a seat. A line of people had appeared behind me, some of whom looked slightly disgruntled. I guess they really needed their morning java.
I perched myself at a small table towards the back of the cafe, positioned so I would be able to spot the blonde barista when she returned. The drink in my hands was strangely comforting and I held it up to my face as if I were smelling it like a fine wine or luxury soup. Some people do that with coffee all the time. I don't understand it. Unless you've got a cold or something how does bringing the drink right up to your nozzle make any difference to the amount of enjoyment? Also, I feel like this is usually done with a mug, rather than a dainty cup. So, me holding up my teensy cup in my bulbous mits may have looked a little odd.
I bobbed over the cup in my hands like a meerkat watching for trouble. The blonde barista had yet to re-appear. I began to wonder whether she had really smiled first. Had she smiled at all?
I put the cup down slowly to avoid a jarring 'kink!' Do I even like coffee? As the thought crept across my brow, someone sat in the chair opposite me and said something.
I began to ponder how extreme the dehydrating effects of coffee were. Started counting how many glasses of water I'd had that day and tallying them next to the number of pee-pees.
The person opposite clearly felt that my lack of response was not a good enough response because they said something else.
I looked up and saw a girl. Or maybe a woman. Not a lady as such, while also not a girly, nor a chick. Regardless, a female was talking to me and I needed a drink of water.
"Aren't you cold?" she said, referring to my lack of jacket or undershirt to bolster my T-shirt's ability to defend against the crisp Autumn. In actuality, I was sweating.
"Me? N----ah." I was sweating more.
"Brrr, it's so chilly." She pulled her puffy over-sized jacket tightly to her for a brief moment before relaxing and letting it ease back into position, revealing a bare collarbone and a single smooth shoulder.
I considered advising her that she'd probably be much warmer if she actually did up her jacket, but instead I just nodded and smiled.
I reached for my coffee, remembered I didn't want it, pulled my hands back quicker than necessary, grasped the edge of the table with my thumbs, then sighed and forced my hands down between my knees.
Her coffee cup sat unnervingly close to my own. Hers was much bigger, maybe a Grandiosa or a Verdidium or whatever. My cup seemed to shrink back like a shy bunny rabbit.
"What kind did you get?"
I looked up to see the girl staring directly at me, green eyes twinkling.
"Coffee," I said weakly.
"Good choice," she chuckled, "I got a latte made with soy milk. I don't really like soy milk, but then I don't really like coffee either, so I figured I might as well try to be a bit healthy while doing something I don't enjoy." She picked up her drink, requiring both hands, took a sip, grimaced, and put it back, failing to avoid a 'klink' with the saucer.
"If you don't like coffee, why did you buy it?" I asked, genuinely confused.
"I'm meeting my friend here and I needed something to wake me up."
"Okay, but ... why such a big one?"
She chuckled again. "I just think that if you're going to do something, even something you don't like, you should go at it full tilt. If I'd gotten a small coffee, it might have satisfied or it might have left me wishing for more. By getting a big coffee, I definitely have enough to fulfill my desires. And if it's too much, I can just leave it."
She smiled and took another sip from her cup, again failing to avoid a 'klink'.
"But ... if it turns out to be too much, isn't that just a waste of money?"
"Ah," a twinkle popped in her eyes, "that's where you come in."
I must have made an expression of some kind because she chuckled again. It wasn't a gruff chuckle, but neither was it overflowing with flowery sweetness. It just was.
"You're sat here alone," she continued, "with the smallest cup in existence, with no milk. So, even though I like regular milk, I got soy milk, so if you've an allergy you won't have trouble drinking this." How long had she been watching me? "So if I can't finish my drink you're an easy target to off-load it to." She smiled and twinkled again. "And simultaneously doing my good deed for the day." She took another sip, her face contorting with impish mirth. Klink.
I wasn't sure if 'giving a half-drunk soy-latte to a stranger' really counted as a 'good deed' but I failed to make this observation known. Partly because I didn't want to disrupt the friendly, mellow vibes she was radiating, but mostly because another female interrupted us by coming up behind my guest, leaning around the side of her, and planting a firm kiss right on her lips.
Her eyes expressed shock, then quick realization.
"Looks like it's your lucky day!" She pushed her soy-latte towards me, stood up and took the other girl's hand. They looked into each other's eyes with warmth.
"Nice to meet you," she smiled, waved and her friend smiled too. They left together.
I took a sip of the soy-latter and grimaced.
Do I even like coffee?