David entered the coffee shop with his hands straight down by his sides and got in the queue. There was a dark haired woman standing in front of him with a lot of tattoos and David tried not to stare. He shifted his messenger bag and studied the menu board on the back wall. He looked at the floor and, then the ceiling. He studied carefully the corner where the walls came together with the ceiling, trying not to draw attention to himself.
More people came in behind him and he tried to avoid eye contact. They seemed to be students from the JC on their way to class, discussing student things, assignment due dates and quiz results from last week. Two of the guys were having an intense debate over the use of the “Oxford comma”, whatever that was.
The tattooed girl was speaking to the guy at the counter. “Double mocha latte, chai with soy and a splash.” The counter guy nodded his head, as though he actually knew what that might be.
“You wanna twist with that?”
She shook her head. “But Stevia might be nice.”
The counter guy scribbled on his note pad and nodded. Tattoo Lady moved over to the side to wait for whatever it was that she had ordered and now it was David’s turn.
His stomach started to knot and his mouth went dry. He clinched his butt cheeks together, pushed his black framed glasses up on his nose, cleared his throat, and stood up straight; arms back at his side. Counter guy looked expectantly with his pencil poised above the four inch square of yellow paper. David said, “Uhhh,” and his mouth snapped shut. He hated having to speak with strangers. Counter Guy pushed his dreads back behind his shoulder and David saw his name tag. It read “Dave.”
“Hey,” David said, “Your name’s Dave? Mine is too!” David stuck out his hand to shake. He was feeling a lot more comfortable. After all, he now knew Counter Guy’s name. No longer strangers, it would be easy to talk with him now.
Dave said loudly, “Huh? Wha? No, no, Dude. I’m just wearing Dave’s shirt cuz I didn’t have a clean one. What’ll ya have?”
David almost turned and fled right then, but everyone was watching. He no longer knew Counter Guy’s name. His insecurities were back; back with a vengeance. He pushed his glasses up again and brushed his hair out of his eyes and tried not to vomit. “Coffee, black.” There, he had done it.
“Medium,” he croaked through parched lips.
“We don’t have medium.” Counter Guy said. “We have: Poco, Mas y Menos, or Grande.”
David could barely see. His field of vision was collapsing inward from the periphery. He only heard ‘Poco’.
“Poco” he whispered and dropped two dollars on the counter. David retreated to the corner where he wished he could disappear. He always ordered black coffee – never changed. It was the easiest and least stressful thing on the menu.
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