The Coffee God
The Coffee God behind the counter side shuffles foot to foot, a dance of steam and espresso. Black painted fingernails, inch wide gauged ears and a gray striped sweatshirt, hood twisted crooked on his back. There’s a cigarette tucked behind one ear; it bobs and twitches with each step.
“Non-fat caramel latte,” he calls, part of a spell, part of a mantra, toneless (just a tuck at the end). I reach. He looks up.
The espresso maker hisses.
There’s something like a grin, something like a spark, something like a shared secret linked eye to eye. When he passes over the drink (rough cardboard sleeve hot to the touch), he lingers. Our fingers brush, a shiver, a jolt, a ten-watt shock.
The Coffee God tilts his chin, shouts, “Hey, mind if I take my break now?” and ducks around the counter without waiting for a reply.
He slips his cigarette between his lips without taking his eyes from mine. I follow him out the door.
Outside, rain whispers through the decorative courtyard trees. The sun is still shining (fox rain). The Coffee God doesn’t light his cigarette. He leans against the plate-glass window. I lean against the brick wall next to it. The latte is still too hot to drink.
We don’t talk. He doesn’t smoke. Somehow we slip shoulder to shoulder, touching (tingling) just so. I sip too-hot espresso; he twirls the cigarette across his lips. We watch the rain. Minutes pass.
“Gimme your cellphone,” he says. I pass him my phone.
“I don’t actually smoke,” he says and gives me back my phone. On the screen, a new number: “Call me” (no name).
The Coffee God slips the cigarette in his pocket, waves two fingers, says, “Ta.”
He goes back inside.
I wait ten minutes. I text “Wanna meet for coffee?”
I wait two minutes. He texts “Your place or mine?”
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Catherine McCabe-Strong lives in Rochester, New York. She is the author of “Julius Constantine Chang,” available throughamazon.com. You can catch more of her work at www.deviantart.anapests-