Thursday, November 26, 2009

A Pre-Holiday Tale (Part 1 of 2)

by Liz

I stood there dully, the day before Thanksgiving, absentmindedly toying with kitchenware. I examined the marred metal surface of the tongs, perpetually speckled with bits of brown oil. Memories of yesterday’s grilled ham and cheese; of yesterday’s grilled Nutella sandwich. Memories of any number of café novelties which have comprised the last five months of my life.

Five months of waking at 5:30am; of scaling seven consecutive flights of stairs to transfer between the underground R and the above-ground F train; of listening to NPR as I brew coffee and set out morning pastries, my shoulders tightening with each subsequent news headline. Five months of exchanging pleasantries with customers, people who I often mistakenly consider friends; people who, in all actuality, regard me only as “coffee girl,” if they consider me at all.

Five months of pining; it’s inevitable. I became panicky in the presence of an exquisite-faced Australian at the Uptown café I worked at earlier this year. Before the Aussie, it was the boyish son-of-a-yuppie with the hot-tempered, chain-smoking, half-Asian girlfriend. For the past five months, I’ve agonized over my current coffee crush, a customer who, despite my good-natured charm and subtle advances, remains partially oblivious to my existence.

“Does he know you’re not STUPID?” my friend Sophia inquired helpfully, via GChat. “Does he know you went to college?” In other words, does he know that you have half a mind and don’t ALWAYS smell like stale coffee; that your blouses aren’t ALL streaked with fudge; that the hair on your forearms isn’t always clotted with cream cheese?

Five months of buttering bread and slicing tomatoes and deftly peeling wax paper from individual slices of cheddar cheese. I stood there, before the grill, the day before Thanksgiving, anxious and lovelorn. In truth, I was wallowing in self-pity, doubtful of whether or not I should even remain in New York after the holiday season.

(to be continued...)