From the Observation Deck
The middle-aged woman whimpers like a helpless bird, then gestures rapidly with her fingers, opening her mouth and directing her hand aggressively down into it. I am the barista, she is the customer. Duty dictates that I translate. I study the specimen a moment longer and decide this is truly a desperate situation. Finally, her motions stop and she looks me in the eye:
“Shoot me!” She’s morphed from bird to Southern in two syllables and I leap at her command. My brain works double-time until I realize that by Shoot me! she means she wants to order a Shot in the Dark (a cup of coffee with a shot of espresso in it) and that furthermore, by Shot in the Dark she means a Red Eye – our local term for said beverage.
Within 45 seconds she has a drink in her hand. She laps at it first, testing the temperature, then dumps an inch of cream into it to cool it down and bring it to taste. There is no time to stir. She gulps, gulps again, then emits a satisfying sigh into the air, as if she’s just run a marathon and taken her first gulp of water in miles.
“Why is it so good?” She asks. Then, “I feel human again.”
It’s worth pointing out that she is a regular customer. This is our routine, or some other exaggerated form of it, and then we talk shop in praise of coffee while she lingers at the counter and indulges in the rest of her drink.
Life is heavy in my heart and on my mind today. It’s PMS and it’s moving and it’s the cold (four layers today) and it’s the lack of exercise all piling up on me again. It’s the knowing that I’ll have to live with this heaviness for anywhere from 24 to 72 hours as hormones dictate.
But the bird/marathon runner/coffee addict is talking again and this time I ignore her completely, smiling and nodding enough to portray interest when instead my eyes traces the nuances of her graying hair, the stiffness of her Carhartt winter jacket, the pewter pitcher of her drawl. The world is a confetti of organisms, a spectacular arrangement of colors and voices, preferences and fetishes. And I’m lucky enough to have a job that invites rigorous study of the lot of them.