Transcript from a Conversation inside Starbucks

April 27, 2010

I’M AT STARBUCKS an hour early (a mix up I won’t go into). It’s early and my eyes have a hard time staying open, not because I’m falling asleep, but because my eyes are extremely dry. I blink hard and it looks like I’m trying to hide tears; what I’m actually trying to do is create them.

I order a large coffee and the girl behind the counter says,”Do you take the bus?”

“No,” I say, “I take my car.” I hand her my credit card.

“Really? I swear I saw you at the Addison bus station the other day,” she says, looking at me hard with her left eye and tapping her fingers on her lips. She slides my card and hands it back to me.

“Nope,” I grab my coffee. Blinking. Eyes are so dry. I turn towards the back of the store where they keep the cream and the sugar, which, at that moment, are the most important things in my life.

“I take the bus,” she calls out to me. I’m half way across the store. My coffee is still undrinkably black, the cream and sugar are 3 steps away. I take a breath and turn back towards the counter.

“Oh yeah?” I say.

“Yeah,” she says, “my friends are always like: ‘Amy, why are you always so late for things?’ and I tell them, ‘Guys! Its because I take the bus'”

“Hmmmmm,” I say, and take subtle step backwards.

“But really, the bus is great” She looks for a moment at her co-worker, and I wonder if I’m off the hook. Nope: she looks at me again, “I save so much money on gas”

“Hmmmmm. Yeah. Money,” I say. Another step backwards.

“And I get so much reading done on the bus. There’s a stop right by my house…,”

I nod and take another step back. The distance between us is awkward now, 20 feet or more, and the girl has to raise her voice to make sure I can hear.

“Bus 357” she shouts, “that’s the bus I take”

“357” I repeat. I’m at the bar now, facing the wrong direction. This last part is the most difficult: the turn. The break. The ending of this conversation. I start to turn, keeping my eyes on her but slowly reaching for the half-and-half.

“My friends think I’m crazy!” she shouts

I nod and smile. I can feel the plastic handle of the metal container. Is it half and half? I don’t know. I can’t turn to look. She’s still looking at me. Waiting. This is the part when I’m suppose to say something. To let her know we’ve been having a conversation, that I’ve been listening. I blink. Eyes are so dry. I open my mouth, hoping something conclusive will come out, something that will tie off our conversation like a bow on top of a present. She’s waiting. She’s waiting. And then,

“I took the bus once”

The voice isn’t mine. I look around and see that it came from another employee across the store. The girl’s eyes break from mine in slow motion and land on her coworker. I’m free. I let out a sigh; I roll my shoulders; I blink my eyes; I put back the whole milk I’m holding and cloud my coffee with half and half and two packets of sugar. Then I go to work.

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