With Sugar

ClubThe smell of coffee was intoxicating. Providing more comfort than the impending taste. It wasn’t about sipping the cup through the afternoon. I was dying for the comfort of holding a warm mug. I could picture it so clearly in my mind’s eye. The solace provided by holding that cup. . . my God. I could feel the productivity returning to my finger tips.

–Long day?

The barista brought my attention back to reality. He’d caught me day dreaming, much to my embarrassment. He was tall and had the slender build of a long distance runner. He smiled at me, as I wiped away the memory of my morning from my brow. His smile was wicked; knowing. Chuckling as he poured me my afternoon-pick-me-up cup of coffee, he said.

–Don’t worry, you’re almost through right? You can make it.

I gratefully accepted my travel cup. Wrapping my hands around the warmed cardboard sleeve, I thought; this is what perfection feels like.

–Thank you. Really, I appreciate it. It’s been a long week, man. A really long week. Although, I shouldn’t be complaining to you. I mean, Christ. People and their food; it’s crazy. But people and their coffee. Now that’s a whole new nightmare.

He wiped his hands on his green apron, smiling his devilish smile.

–You’ve done food industry before. You should know better. Don’t feel sorry for me.

I raised my eyebrows. I wasn’t feeling sorry for him, we all choose our lives.

–For real. Under caffeinated people are terrifying! Like a rabid animal foaming at the mouth.

He rubbed the back of his head. Brown eyes flicking to the left and right of him, checking to make sure no one was near enough to hear us. He leaned over the counter, whispering.

–Ma’am. If you’re mean to us, we find our ways. You yell, and we’ll mess with you. Not just messing up your name on the cup. That’s just kicks n’ giggles. I’m sayin’, you order non-fat. We’ll give you cream. You ask for a double shot of espresso, we’ll make sure its not caffeinated.

I started laughing from the shock of it. It was a ballsy way to get revenge.  A high risk en devour.

–Aren’t you nervous that you’ll get caught?

He shrugged.

–Naw. People like that, they don’t come here for the coffee. They come in here because they need to feel power. They need to feel like they are in control.

–It’s clearly working for them.

His laughter had a maniacal ring to it. He winked.

–Aw, you bet it is.

Connection

ClubI looked up over the edge of my reading glasses at the gentleman sitting one seat over from me at the coffee bar of Busboys and Poets. He had asked me why I was reading my book and I had absentmindedly answered him, trying to ignore his attempts at conversation. His reaction to my response had my full attention. He smiled at me and repeated his words.

–I was expecting a story. I thought to myself, here must be an exceptional tale. I thought, this girl has seen evil.

His skin was charcoal with dark eyes to match. He had spoken softly and with care, his words sounded like they weren’t used to English. He gave me a closed lip smile. Patient. Waiting. He smiled gently. He was gentle. His movement, his gaze, his attitude. He seemed at peace with himself and who he was.

–Hm. Are you sure that isn’t projection?

He chuckled, rubbing a hand on his bald head, thinking on how to reply.

–I guess we could all say we’ve seen things. I just still can’t get over it. Why that book?

Sighing, I glanced down at the page number before shutting the book and placing it face down on the counter.

–Well, from what I can tell, this book is about communication and perception. When we speak to people we assume they are on the same level as us. Same degree of verbal capacity or comprehension. That we are all playing by the same rules. Yet, that’s not really the case or at least not always the case. Some people talk and mock communication as they have no sincere desire to express themselves. They talk and talk but unlike most, it’s to fill an inner void, validating a state of mind or way of being; instead of reaching out across the void. They don’t want you to receive the information, process it, and reply. They would rather be self isolating. I do not believe this to be a bad thing. It’s just something that is and this book explores the perception of that specific barrier between people.

He sat. His dark eyes staring at his half empty glass of orange juice. The condensation had soaked it creating a little moat between the edge of the glass and the napkin in rested on. He was lost in thought to the point where I wondered if I shouldn’t have said anything. People either hear what they want to hear or what they fear to be true.

–Why, Holy. Miss. Do you really think that? I was right you have seen things.

I pulled my glasses off my nose and tossed them onto my book. Picking up my cup of tea, I settled back into the bar stool.

–I wouldn’t necessarily say I’ve seen things, but those are my thoughts. I’d like to think I meet people where they are.  Communication is complicated so I don’t think I’ll ever know for sure.

He chuckled.

–Miss, I think it was Fate we met today. You gave me the answer to a question I’d been praying on for a long time.

He turned his glass ninety degrees in his fingers. Lift. Turn. Place. Lift. Turn. Place. Lift. Turn. Place. He looked up at me. Eyes unwavering.

–I’m a negotiator. I guess you could say, I’ve been known to build bridges. I am good at it. Take two people, two groups, two forces, and close the distance between them. Mend hurt. Build something new. It was never anything I had to try at. I just happened into it and I was good. This was my skill. This was my gift. But then.

He broke eye contact and sighed. Looking at the cup in his hand.

–Miss, my boss has been wanting me to get a person on board and no matter how hard I try, no matter what I do or say nothing happens. Then my boss comes down on me for it. Hard. It is making me question myself. Doubt myself. And you look like a person who knows what doubt can do to a person. So I’ve been praying on it. ‘God. Do not take this from me. This was my gift and I know you can give’th and take’th away; but not this. Not this.’

He leaned his back over the edge of the chair stretching his throat towards the ceiling.  He took a deep breath and wiped at his eyes. He looked down at the glass again.

–I never once thought it was not me. I thought this was all within my control. I believe, grace of God, I can do anything with His Will. I never thought it could be someone else. That this is not about me. That this is about them and letting them be. Not my need. Not my boss’s need. It’s them. All them.

–Perhaps your boss is coming down on you so hard because they have already tried with this person. Perhaps you are the last resort and what does that mean if you are? What happens to them?

He looked up at me, his brow turned down with concern. I sighed.

–Whatever happens is not on you. It’s not your responsibility. We all make our own bed to sleep in. Some people need the fire. They need to burn for validation. To know that they exist and that they are who they are.

He snorted and shook his head at me.

–Like I said, Miss. Meeting you is Fate.

I laughed, rubbing the back of my neck unsure as to what to think on the idea.

–Miss, you have given me new ground to stand on.

I raise my eyebrows.

–Oh, really?

–Yes, Miss. New ground to build bridges with.

Quotable

Red HeartThere is something special about the secrets people tell you from their hearts. Most stories people tell come from the deepest depths of soul. Stories so dark and so full of light you know that if you shared all of what it is or was you would be breaking a sacred confidence. Still, some words stick like glue. Some lines about love stay with you.

 

“He proposed to me in the same spot we met five years ago.”

“I’ve always loved her, I think. It’s strange what memories will do to you.”

“When do you think he’ll notice me?”

“She’s planned every minute of our lives and all I want to do is watch my African Sunset again.”

“Do you think people should stay together for children?”

“It was an accident. It wasn’t supposed to happen. But it gave me my son, and he is the greatest gift an accident could give.”

“I never had time for love or family. I dedicated myself to what I was good at; working. Now, I have nothing.”

“Do you think he likes me?”

“Loving isn’t real. Only timing.”

“Well, I do a little bit of this and I do a little bit of that and I pray to God she doesn’t find out.”

“If he cannot provide he’s not worth your time.”

“Arrangements are easier. Contracts are better than trust.”

“He used to brag he married a woman ten years younger than him. Now, he hates it. He’s so afraid he’ll die and leave me alone. We can’t talk about it. So he doesn’t know if given a second change at life; I’d choose to spend it with him.”

“I’m afraid one day she’ll realize she should be with someone better than me.”

“What if I am not who he needs me to be?”

“When I look at myself in the mirror, I hate myself. How could someone love a person like that?”

“I swear, after ten years, he better ask me. It’s about damned time we settle.”

“I know they are the one for me because every time they hold my hand I get butterflies in my stomach. It’s been years and I still get butterflies.”

“I’m not a trophy or a collectable.”

“You know your marriage is dead when it’s all about how much passive aggressive shit you can pile onto the other person. A fucking shit show.”

“Do you really think he’s out there? What if we don’t find each other? What if we miss each other and end up alone?”

“I’m going to marry that woman.”

“I am afraid he is going to leave me.”

“How can you find love if you are unwilling to search for it?”

“You are better than you realize.”

“When she cries, my heart squeezes till my bones ache.”

“I don’t know how to be any different.”

Fate

SpadeI pulled as they pushed. We were both so involved in our own little worlds we almost ran into each other. I let the door go, stepping back with a tipsy giggle as they rushed past me.

It happened so fast.

The sound cracked out like snap of a B.B. Gun.

She stumbled past me onto the sidewalk, gasping for freedom. Something felt wrong about her movement. It was as if her surreal moment leached into reality. Everything slowed around her. Her unease seeped into the air. She started to step away from the restaurant. Hand to her temple; you could see she was wrestling with herself.

Her hair was cropped short in excellent taste that even the most polished hipster would be jealous of. Fashioned after a man from the 20’s, her hair was long on the flat top of her head and buzzed with marine precision elsewhere. The back of her T-shirt had the same logo as the restaurant.

She turned back to the door at the sound.

I stood deer-in-head-lights, trying to figure out what caused the sound and her pain.

Her eyes were edged in charcoal, and her delicate features lined with make up detailing her femininity. She was beautiful. Fairly-like as she looked up at the hand she had to her temple.

–Oh, it was my bracelet.

I looked at the ground. I couldn’t see anything anywhere. The beads had dispersed themselves too well to be found.

–I. I’m. Um.

I stuttered. I would help her look if she wanted. She felt upset to me. She felt like everything had gone wrong and if that bracelet was going to make her feel better, I was okay trying to gather all the tigers eye beads.

She sighed, noticing me for the first time. Her worry relaxed into a smile. She placed the hand with the missing bracelet into a pocket. She nodded, easing back into life.

–You know what? It’s okay. This is fated to be.

She then turned and walked away, more at peace then I ever think I could feel when walking out of a job.

Label

Red DiamondI watched the tattoos crawl up his neck. They weren’t anything special. They were somewhere between the essence tramp stamp and well thought ingenuity. Colorful and grey-scaled, they varied in pattern and design. I rarely saw people with markings edging their face. Not many people are so bold. He sniffled as he stood at the computer typing in my payment for my car repair. He took his hand and wiped at his nose, leaving behind a slight smear of engine oil.

–Sir. Um.

He looked over at me as I pointed to my upper lip. He shrugged in dismissal.

–Miss, if I really tried to keep oil off’a me, I’d spend half the day washin’ instead’a workin’. It the fate of this here Auto-technician to be one with oil.

He gestured towards himself, smiling. I smiled back. I loved that he was so pleased with himself and his work. So many people tell me how miserable they are with their job. How they need more. How they wish they had chosen differently. How they don’t have they want or desire. It’s as though they are trying to tally points against each other. “No, I am more miserable.” “Hey, I’m most miserable.” Some days it seems hating work is the end game. You know you’ve made it if you loathe your nine to five.

Not, him. He was everything they weren’t. It was refreshing to listen to him.  I nodded politely as he talked. He kept pointing to the screen telling me about all the things that happened with my car even though I only understood half of what he said. He paused, waiting for me to say something.

–So, I can get to point A to point B safe and sound?

–Yes, Ma’am!

–Solid. Thank you!

He chuckled, putting his hands into his back pockets. He looked at me with large sad brown eyes. It was disconcerting given how happily the words bounced from his mouth.

–You work in education?

My eyes furrowed, and I hesitated before responding.

–Yes.

He smiled.

–I knew it. People in education are always kind. Always. We can pick ’em outta the crowd.

My jaw dropped.

–There is no way you can tell what someone’s profession is by how they act. People are people. Not what they do.

–No miss. People do what they do because of how they are. Educators are kind, and they see potential and skill everywhere. They understand what it takes to do something. All the little steps of thinkin’ needed to get somewhere. Most other people. They’re mean. They look at us like we are something to cross off a list. ‘Auto check’ with one big black line through it. Nothing. Just another task. Just another chore.

–But that doesn’t make any sense.

He shook his head at me.

–Of course you don’t understand it, Miss. Cause if ya’ did, you wouldn’t be any different.