a very short story

There’s this girl behind the bar and I think she must be the new barista because they took down the We’re Hiring sign out front and I’ve never seen her here before, and that says something, because I come once sometimes twice a week. The only reason I don’t have a lot of patience right now is because she keeps dropping the portafilter (you really have to get it in there right and pull like your life depends on it) and the partially packed espresso is all over the floor and it’s distracting me from the conversation I’m trying to hack. I’ve been listening to the couple sitting at the table in front of me for awhile and I’m doing that thing where my headphones are in and sometimes I type so it’s very, very inconspicuous. But, I’m listening. Hard.

We’re at Sally’s, my favorite place, come here all the time. I like it because it’s quiet. It’s not the place you go to have a serious conversation so I don’t know why they’re here. Maybe they don’t know. It’s more like a library with a coffee bar and (now) shitty baristas. I like the quiche they make on Wednesdays and I like how I don’t have to order a soy cappuccino anymore they just bring it over. I know what you’re thinking, soy, but one time I tried it just for the hell of it and I’ve never gone back. I don’t know what else to tell you. It’s a beautiful Tuesday morning and the birds are singing so lovely I swear they opened the window in here just for them. I would have sat outside at one of them European type tables, it’s that kind of nice with the sun and the breeze and the girls in sundresses, but I had to charge my computer first, and now I’m pretty hooked on this heated conversation.

“I’m not ready to have a baby,” he says, pulling his face down with the weight of his fingertips. He is facing my direction so I’ve been observing and so far I notice his hands. He likes to run his fingers through his hair and play piano on his thighs.

I can’t see her face but I know she’s pretty. Something about her hair maybe. It’s a soft, golden blonde and it looks perfectly straight and perfectly cut and you hope that it’s natural even though you know that it’s not. I can’t see her hands but her left foot has tapped at a steady tempo for the last hour. Maybe it’s the one thing keeping her from ripping his eyeballs out.

“I’m not having an abortion,” she says, tapping.

“I’m not having a baby.”

“You are, David. I’m telling you right now that you are.”

I don’t know whose side I’m on. I don’t know if I have any strong beliefs about abortion I’ve never really thought about it. That’s the thing about being a guy I guess. You don’t have to think about it until something like this happens.

I take a quick look around to see if anyone else is doing what I’m doing. There’s an older guy in the corner with a newspaper and a chocolate croissant left untouched, but I doubt he can hear much besides his nasal breath and ruffling papers. There’s a woman at the table next to him with black and gold rimmed glasses and a cat necklace (she’s a regular too but we’ve never acknowledged it), and I know she’s preoccupied with what is supposedly a novel about the fourth dimension. And really that’s it, just us, except for the old barista teaching the new barista how to make a latte and I hope they’re not listening in on this because she needs focus!

“You know how I feel about this. You know how strongly I feel about this.”

“I do. And you know I disagree.” His fingers playing piano. “I’m not even asking you to have an abortion. We can consider adoption.”

I do like David and he says all of this in a very endearing, calm way. I really don’t think he’s trying to make her upset, I think he’s trying to be honest, but what do I know? Her left foot has picked up the pace, double-time, and I find myself bracing for impact.

“I’m having the fucking baby, David!” she screams. She stands up and in one fluid motion throws her hot, black coffee in his piano-playing lap. He, more or less, screams too.

“You’re fucking crazy, Diane!”

Now everyone is doing what I’m doing.

The old barista runs to the couple’s table, while Diane runs out of Sally’s. For someone who just burnt his scrotum, he is awfully calm now. He takes the napkins and thanks the old barista and pats his lap and takes a deep breath. He runs his fingers through his hair and gathers his things and leaves just as quickly. I stare at the empty table with the wet napkins and the spilled coffee and the ultrasound photos she left behind and I’m not sure I like David anymore. I don’t know what to think so I just sit for a while.

Eventually, I pack up my things because I tried to leave an hour ago but David and Diane happened. It’s still a beautiful day, despite the mood here at Sally’s, and I could use a little fresh air. As I’m wrapping my headphones and taking my last, lukewarm sip of coffee, I hear the all too familiar sound of a fallen portafilter.

I swing by the bar on my way out to grab a breath mint.

“See you next week.”

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