“I hate this place, why do you make me come here,” I moaned.
“What’s wrong with it?” Mona said, “You work here.”
“Exactly,” I said rolling my eyes, “I try to limit my time here to the essentials, working…and that’s it.”
“Oh, come on. I like the iced tea,” Mona coaxed, sipping through her bright orange straw. She pulled out a wedge of a brownie and held it out to me.
“Want some?” She said smiling.
“God, Mona, that’s disgusting,” I said, swatting her away. She began to eat, carelessly letting brownie crumbs fall into her cleavage. I sat back, sipping on my cappuccino. I opened the lid, the bubbles in the foam were much too large, and it seemed a little heavy.
“These retards must have slept through training. Is it that hard to steam milk?” I grumbled.
I would have much rather gone down to the organic coffee trade place with the loft upstairs with the red couches and the baristas with facial hair that play covers of bad eighties pop songs. At least they know the importance of good espresso...
“You’re full of angst today, Meg,” Mona said as she began picking crumbs out of her bra and then promptly eating them.
“I am not,” I defended, but she shot a look of skepticism back that made me shrink into my seat, “Okay, maybe a little. I’m just…frustrated, that’s all.”
“Why, because of Travis? You never tell me anything about him.” she said, looking disappointed.
“What’s there to tell?” I sighed, “He’s your typical extroverted, over-protective male with bad music taste.”
“But he’s so…hot,” she said dreamily.
“All he did on our last date was open doors for me, and we went to this diner…and he ordered like, a whole plate of bacon and nothing else. How gross is that?” I complained.
“I like bacon,” Mona said, “I’d let him rub bacon all over me if he wanted.”
I wrinkled my face in disgust.
“Gross. That’s beside the point, anyway. And you could tell like the entire time we were hanging out, all he wanted to do was make out with me. I mean, don’t get me wrong…that’s nice and all, but seriously? And what’s worse, he didn’t even have a clue who Andy Warhol or Linda Rondstadt were.”
“God, how horrifying,” Mona said, disgusted.
“You’re telling me, I’m practically dating him,” I said.
“Wait, it’s like…official?” Mona’s eyes widened.
“I guess. I mean, I don’t think it’s really hit me yet,” I said, pondering the situation, “But have you seen his Facebook profile? He changed his relationship status. And we’re in the car and he was like, so, have you seen my profile? Like, that is supposed to validate things. But, I figure that I might just give it a try. He does have a car, after all.”
"That's true, taking the bus is the pits and you still don't have the funds to buy your morbid fantasy dream car," Mona laughed.
"There is nothing morbid about wanting to drive hearse, I happen to think they are charming," I defended.
"Why don't you just get a Honda? Hondas are practical, economical. All those things we're supposed to be," Mona said, raising her eyebrows.
"When was the last time I was practical? I eat toaster waffles at three in the morning and collect old rotary phones that aren't functional. I'd hardly call myself practical," I explained.
"I refuse to drive a car unless it is the car I can imagine myself driving," I continued, "You can listen to just about any music in a hearse and it seems like a completely logical music choice. You just can't do that in a normal person car without looking insane."
"Your logic never fails to amaze me," Mona said with a shrug. "Well, if things don't work out with Travis, I totally get to date him next."
“Actually, I’m pretty sure that Ben has dibs on him next…” I said, fixing my gaze to the skinny guy behind the counter, throwing biscotti at the other baristas. “He grabbed my phone the other day and started texting Travis pretending to be me.”
“What did Ben text him?” Mona gasped.
“I love you,” I groaned.
“Ha! Are you serious?!”
“Yeah, and then Ben told me that he would totally do Travis if he was a girl. God, I had to do hours of damage control after that,” I groaned.
“I can’t believe I get sloppy thirds,” Mona sighed.
“Venti four shot nonfat no whip caffe mocha!” Ben shouted at the counter.
“Oh no…Mona, hide me,” I gasped.
“Wha…?” She said, squinting around me. But it was too late.
“Huh…Hi Meg,” a voice called behind me. I turned around…it was him, Mocha Guy. He stood there sheepishly, his brown hair disheveled, wearing a rumpled black suit.
“Oh, must be your day off,” he said, “I was hoping I’d run into you, I thought you usually worked on Tuesdays, but it looks like you’re having a bit off an off day.”
“I guess that’s a way of describing it,” I said, my voice flattening.
“Well, aren’t I lucky to run into you,” he continued.
“Right,” I said, squinting my nose, “We were just leaving.” I stood up, giving Mona the don’t-ask-any-questions-just-leave-or-else look and she followed.
“Okay, well, nice to see you Meg!” He called as I grabbed Mona’s arm and whipped her around the maze of tables and customers waiting impatiently in line.
When we got outside, Mona looked around confused.
“Who was that guy?” she asked.
“He’s totally stalking me, he comes in like, every day and orders the same thing. I call him Mocha Guy. He is always wearing a suit. Even on the weekends.”
“Weird. Since when has he been doing this?” Mona asked.
“Since, well…I have no idea. He just showed up one day, asked me how his new haircut looked…and started coming back every day since,” I explained.
“You know,” Mona began, “Maybe he just likes the mochas, didn’t you ever think about that?”
“Pssh, yeah right, Mona. He likes the mochas…he’s obviously in love with me,” I said, giving her my famous could-you-be-any-more-absurd look.
Mona sighed, “I wish I had a stalker.”
“Look, do you want to meet up later or what?” I asked impatiently, crossing my arms against my chest.
“I thought I might stay home tonight. Spend some quality time with my new Wii fit and stuff. But really I’ll probably just eat some pizza bagels and watch some cable,” she said with a shrug.
“Fine. I’ll be at home reading that book I stole from the library if you want to call me whenever you’re done being boring,” I said smugly.
“Okay well, I’ll call you later then,” Mona laughed, “And Meg?”
“Tell Travis I said hi?”
Sixteen and a half hours later, I found myself up to my knees in coffee.
“Hey,” I said acknowledging Martin, one of the employees, as he walked through the door, bursting with the hint of a hangover and possibly more.
“Huh what?” Martin managed to mumble.
“I said hey?”
“Awesome. Hey,” he said dragging a skateboard behind him.
“Martin, for the love of all that is caffeinated, how many times do I have to tell you to leave your board in the back?” I nagged, then caught myself. I tried my hardest not to take my management too seriously, like others at the store. I didn’t want to be known as the morning shift Nazi of all things.
“Just make sure Carl doesn’t see it okay?” I corrected myself, “And did you happen to see Ben on your way in? He’s late.”
“Didn’t see nothin’,” Martin said as he fumbled to tie his green apron.
“Apparently…” I grumbled and began to fill the hoppers with beans. I gave a sigh of relief as I saw Ben with his face pressed against the glass outside, making faces.
“Ben!” I hissed in his direction. He couldn’t hear me, so I gave him my giving-you-one-warning glare and he scrambled in, leaving a very obvious smudge mark on the window.
“Meggie!” He shrieked as he burst into the door, giving us a demonstration of his infamous entrances complete with hand swishing and a dance routine.
“Guess what?” he squealed with delight.
“You decided to show up?” I said sarcastically.
“Even better! Okay, so I was totally on my way here. And I would have been on time…but then I saw this guy jogging down the street,” he said, between fits of giggles.
“What?” I asked with an obvious lack of enthusiasm.
“Well,” he said ignoring me, “He was…okay, get this…He was…he was wearing a pink spandex running suit…and okay, are you ready for this? A neon green fanny pack! Of all things!”
“Ben, what the hell?” I said.
“So, I followed him for a couple blocks. You know, to see if I wasn’t hallucinating. Well, turns out I wasn’t,” he explained.
Martin laughed, “That guy’s on your team.”
“Who’s team? Mine or Ben’s?” I said whirling around to face Martin’s smug expression.
“Pssh, whatever,” he said with a smirk, “he’s so on yours.”
“How can he be on my team if I’ve never even seen him? Ben’s the one who found him,” I argued. “Rules are rules!”
“Hmm, I see your logic. Ben, spando dude is on your team,” Martin concluded.
“What are you talking about? What team?” Ben wailed. Martin and I exchanged glances.
“Well,” Martin explained, “You know how there’s always that kid who gets picked last in P.E. or whatever because he’s totally just…you know?”
“Okay,” Ben said, “Yeah…”
“Well, if you see a person like that, like spando dude, then you call it out. It’s kind of like that slug bug game. But, with weird people,” Martin said.
“But weird people are our people,” I interjected.
“Well, you catch my riff,” Martin said, turning back to make more whipped cream.
“Wanna see a pic I took on my phone?” Ben said waving his cell around.
“Maybe later,” I said, handing him an apron.
The day dragged on mercilessly. The coffee shop was crowded, people were angry, the espresso machine decided to have a mechanical aneurism, and Ben had reverted back to his four year old self.
“Meg!” he shouted. I turned to look, but my reactions were slow. A biscotti hit me between the eyes, splattering crumbs and chocolate all over my face and onto the floor.
“F%#$!” I shouted, a little too loudly on my part. The store momentarily became silent. Ben giggled and went back to ringing up customer orders. Luckily I only had an hour left on my shift. I wanted nothing more than to go home, take a shower, and pass out silently in my bed.
My apron pocket began to vibrate letting me know I had received a text. We weren’t allowed to have cell phones on us, but we all did nonetheless. I ducked down quickly by the fridge where nobody would see me and pretended to be looking for milk. It was Travis.
hey babe, it said.
God, I hate it when guys call me babe. I feel so cliché’.
The week drug on…and on. I spent my Friday off with Travis, but hadn’t heard from him in three days. I shuffled my way into work on Tuesday, Ben greeted me in his usual happy manner but stopped short when he saw my expression.
“What’s wrong?” He gasped.
“Nothing,” I muttered, walking over to the counter and burying my face in it.
“You guys did it, didn’t you?” He asked, poking me in the back with a spoon trying to get me to get off of the counter.
“Shut up,” I growled.
“Oh my goodness, you did!” He gasped again, so excitedly, that his arms went up and the spoon went flying, hitting a customer who spilled coffee all down their shirt.
“Oops!” He shouted, and ducked under the counter, grabbing me on the way down and dragging me down to the floor. We could hear the customer shouting, but he ignored it.
“So?” he prodded.
“I think I’m just going to call a pass on this one, pull the old ‘it never happened’ card. I don’t exactly call doing me from behind with your pants still on for forty five seconds ‘doing it’, do you?” I explained.
“I always considered him to be more of a tender, but slightly stern lover. One that’s gonna give it to you all night long,” Ben sighed.
“Please tell me you haven’t been fantasizing about this. He hasn’t talked to me since,” I muttered, “Which is weird because we talk every single day.”
“What a creep,” Ben muttered as the spoon came flying back at us.
“Oh,” Ben said, crawling over to the register and pulling down a sheet of paper and handing it to me, “Carl left this for you.”
“God, what now?” I grumbled looking at the angry handwriting, “Not another one!”
“What is it?” Ben asked, peeking over my shoulder.
“Apparently I’m not doing anything around here or something. Our manager is a creep,” I said, taking the note and ripping it up angrily.
“Hello? Can I get some service in this place?” An angry voice shouted on the other side of the register. Ben popped up to greet them. I continued to stay under the counter with my head pressed into my knees.
“You gonna be okay down there?” Ben whispered.
“I’m a little depressed, Ben, if you haven’t noticed,” I mumbled. And, I was. It was killing me. I felt like a total reject because I felt like I was being ignored and sexually unfulfilled.
“Go take a breather, Meg. It wouldn’t hurt,” Ben offered, kicking me in the direction of the door lightly with his foot and promptly calling out an order to Martin.
“Good idea. Thanks Ben,” I said, crawling my way out.
I nearly tripped someone as I crawled my way out.
“Oh, I’m really sorry,” I apologized, looking up. It was Mocha Guy.
“Meg, hey, what were you doing down there?” He asked, looking puzzled at me on all fours. I stood up, straightened my apron and tried to compose myself.
“I…uh…” I started.
“Were hiding from me,” he said sadly. The look on his face nearly broke my heart. I looked at him then, really for the first time. He had a sweet disposition, a funny, lopsided smile.
“I know I come on a little strong sometimes,” he continued, “I swear, I didn’t mean to freak you out.”
“No, no, you didn’t. And I wasn’t hiding from you, I don’t really know what I was doing down there. Just being weird, I guess,” I said as I began to walk outside. He followed holding his mocha in a hand that seemed to be shaking nervously. We stood there awkwardly looking out at the parking lot.
“Hey,” I said again, “I don’t even know your name.”
“Alex,” he replied quickly.
“Nice to meet you, officially I mean,” I said as we stood outside.
We stood in silence for a moment.
“Do you want to get dinner sometime?” he asked.
“You mean together? With you?” I said, my eyes shifting suspiciously towards him.
“That was weird, I’m sorry, I don’t talk to girls that ofen,” he said, looking down at his shoes. “I should go.” He started walking rigidly away from me.
“Wait!” I called after him. He spun around.
“Why do you like mochas so much?” I asked.
“Honestly? I think your menu is intimidating. You can never go wrong with chocolate, right? Plus I need the buzz if I’m gonna get through the work day,” He explained.
“Wow, you really killed the fantasy, there,” I said shaking my head.
“The fantasy?” He said raising an eyebrow.
“I may be going against my code of baristas by telling you this, but we like to guess the reason repeat customers order what they order,” I explained.
“And what exactly did you guys peg me as?” He asked.
“Now that, I can’t tell you. It would spoil my fun. I should get back to work, actually. Leaving those two in there is like letting a couple of monkeys loose,” I said.
“Okay, I should go too. Bye Meg,” he said waving as he walked away, out of the parking lot. I stood there watching him briefly.
“Hey Alex,” I called after him again.
What was I thinking? Oh my god, I’m telling him my number. Am I insane? What if he’s crazy, like really crazy?
“I’ll give you a call,” he said with a quick smile.
Oh god, what is wrong with me? I have a sort of boyfriend awkward friend with confusing benefits!
“Bye, Meg,” he waved.
Oh crap. Oh crap. I’m delirious. He’s going to drive by my apartment at three in the morning and I’m going to regret this day until the very-
“Whaaa?” I slurred, turning around, Ben was beckoning to me at the counter.
“Help me! Pweeeeeease?” He said, giving me his infamous big eyed kitten face.
I moved back behind the counter and started to call orders down the line.
“What was that all about?” Ben whispered.
“I think I just gave my number to Mocha Guy,” I whispered back.
“NO WAY !!!!” Ben shrieked in high decibels. A woman in line nearly choked on a croissant. A man spilled coffee on his shirt, and far off in China, a baby started to cry.