Coffee, Life and Humanity is a short story by Tim Clark and shared with The Ugly Writers under the theme Ulayaw for the month of February
Coffee, Life and Humanity
It was a dark night, and the dawn came wet and cold, it was miserable. In a way the drizzle was worse than real rain, leaving spots on eyeglasses and windshields. Spots that defied windshield wipers, spots that ignored glass cleansing wipes. Spots that made the world look indistinct, fuzzy, a little dirty. My mood always sinks with rain.
I stopped for coffee, a rare treat, but I needed something, anything, a boost.
“I’ll have a large, black coffee, to go, please.”
“Do you want a Grande?”
“Yes, please.” Dang, I forgot the freighted clichés.
“Room for cream and sugar?”
“No, black, to go, please.”
I took my place with the milling crowd, phones held at odd angles, fingers pushing, touching, tapping. One young girl had wired earbuds, and she swayed gently from side to side, twisting occasionally. She looked so young, and innocent, I couldn’t imagine her drinking coffee. It had to be one of the iced, sugared, sweetened drinks, topped with whipped cream, and chocolate flakes.
“Mellisa.” The person behind the counter called, holding a paper demitasse filled with steaming espresso. The girl pulled one of her earbuds out and walked up. Taking the cup neither of them said a word. They didn’t exchange a glance. I remembered reading about automats, fast food cafeterias where people would buy food and drinks from vending machines. It could have been any less personal than the exchange between Mellisa and the counter person.
“Robert,” called the same person.
A large man, wearing a reflective neon vest walked up and took the large cup she was holding.
“Thanks, I’ve been looking forward to this all morning. This is how I reward myself for each month sober. It’s been 23 months now.” He said with pride.
The woman looked down, picked up a cup and yelled, “Jim.”
The man turned away, sheepish, blushing, but still proud.
“Congratulations, that’s an accomplishment.” I told him.
“Thanks,” he said, almost in a whisper, as though he had learned his place. He smiled at me, his huge, calloused hand patted my shoulder. His clothes looked clean, the blue denim pants almost a milky white, his t-shirt gray, with tiny holes from repeated washing. You could still smell hints of tar and asphalt, somethings never let go.
“Jim.” The woman yelled, a little louder, a hint of anger, impatience tainted her voice, making a choking sound.
I looked around and nobody moved, their faces frozen by the tiny screens.
“Could it be Tim?” I asked.
“Tim.” She yelled, without looking at the cup. She stared straight at me, and I thought she might throw the grande, black coffee to go, at me. I took the cup, and left without saying a word.
Leaving, I thought about finding a new place to buy coffee. It seems having good coffee shouldn’t be enough. You should be served with some courtesy, but it probably won’t be much different anywhere. Society has ground all the nicety and refinements off civilization. We have become machines, delivery vehicles. I guess I’ll just have to learn to live with it.
Read more from Tim Clark by visiting his website at Life, Explained or by checking out his previous write-ups here at The Ugly Writers.