Coffee Hut Slut

by

01/02/2001

E 41st St & 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10017

Neighborhood: Murray Hill

I have been flirting with the coffee man for about three weeks now. Every morning, as I am about to round the corner into the construction site I work near, I ask him for a large coffee, skim no sugar three Equals. The first time I went to him, he asked me how many sugars I wanted.

“No sugar,” I politely stated, “Equal.”

Then I smiled and the coffee man smiled back at me. Maybe he saw something in me, I don’t know.

“Ohhhh….” He said way too knowingly, “Equal and coffee, okay!” And then he emptied the content of three pale blue packages into my coffee. He handed me my coffee cup, I slid him my money, and as he wished me a pleasant day, I turned around to say thanks.

This has been our routine for about three weeks now, it’s never different. And yet, every day there is something new I notice about the coffee man. Yesterday I noticed that his gold watch sparkled when the light hit it the right way, today I noticed his tanned forearms. The other day I swore I saw reddish auburn-esque highlights in a full head of hair. It is hard for me, however, to get the full picture of the coffee man because the coffee man operates from within a coffee hut.

Nonetheless, I will never forget the time coffee man offered me assurance things will get better when everything to me was left in the city dump.

That morning of misery I stumbled to his coffee hut and could barely look up into his eyes. “Large coffee, skim no sugar, three equal.” I barely managed the words. As he was sliding my loose change back to me, he cupped it in his hands for a moment, and uttered those most memorable words: “Cheer up,” he said to me, “Things will improve!”

I looked into his square, eyes. “Thank you, thank you so much.” We held eyes for a second or two, I then clutched onto my coffee bagged in brown paper, rounded the corner and headed into my construction site, with an improved attitude, thanks to coffee man.

That day in my cube, I thought about coffee man. Does he have a family? How did he get into the coffee business? Does he brew his own coffee, grind his own beans, handpicking only the best of them? So many questions I had for coffee man. He was such a sweet man working in such a tough city, a city in which one is forbidden to talk prior to coffee.

This got me thinking, the coffee man is a middle-man. He hands over the coffee, allowing his loyal customers to enter the stage of normalcy and acceptance, leaving behind the one of despond and revulsion. The coffee man acts as the medium between the world of the non-normal and the world of the normal. I need my coffee; I need my coffee man.

The next day I sauntered to the coffee hut, checked my watch, looked at his usual breakfast items for sale, and ordered, surprise, my usual. But this time I tried to jazz it up. Why not, I was in better spirits. I had already had some caffeine via my roommate’s flat Diet Fanta left out all night. “Let’s try…one sugar two equal,” I said coyly.

Coffee man stopped dead in his tracks. He looked up at me under his floppy head of black bangs which too often dangled in his face. “You have good morning?” He uttered, stunned at my decision.

“Yes!” I said, too enthusiastically for my pre-coffee stage.

Nonetheless, he tore open my blue packets, poured them into my cup, put the cup in a brown paper bag, looked up at me and then smiled. “You have great morning!”

I slid him my usual, but since today I was feeling good, I gave him a little extra something. An extra quarter to improve his wonderful coffee grinding technology.

Coffee man did not like this. No sooner than leaving his hut, I heard his faint footsteps behind me, “Ma’am!” He screamed. He sounded like a little boy, which was surprising since he was a coffee man. “You forgot your change!”

On this I whipped my head around. I looked for coffee man but couldn’t find him in the herd of people. Where was he coming from? Where was my Colombian coffee grinder, my Spanish lover, my inspiration for good-will towards others?

And then, I found him. I felt as if the wind was knocked out of me. My feet were glued to the hot cement of the New York city pavement but my mind was spinning out of control. In front of me stood the coffee man. Coffee man stood no taller than my waist with a hand like that of a boy’s extended outwards. “Here ya go! Your change!” He had to yell over the loud roar of passersby.

My life, up until now, flashed before me like a car zooming through an orange light. Before me stood a man that was a midget, a Colombian midget..

Poor coffee man, he hid his height by standing on a platform behind the coffee hut! I took the change and walked down the block, where I spilled out my coffee out, as though it were something shameful and contagious.

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