It’s only a cup of coffee. People get coffee every day. I can do this.
First, open the door. I pulled, then read push. Correcting my error, I stepped inside, scoped out a deserted corner, and eyed the display board. Nobody saw my mistake. Probably.
I loosened my scarf, then decided on my order. Tall Americano, with a pump of chocolate, in a grande cup. Easy. Straightening my grey shirt, I checked to make sure my black pants were still clean. They matched my black scarf, and my black shoes. If I stayed still I might blend into the shadows.
Come on, I could do this. The nervous energy coursing through me made my hands shake. I stepped up to the line, mentally rehearsing my order, and kept exactly two feet of distance between myself and the man in front of me. Someone entered the queue too close behind me. I evened out my personal bubble, and then angled to see both patrons.
“Seriously lady? It’s not that hard to get an order right.” The man behind me nodded at the barista while speaking to me. The woman was training and her manager was correcting a blunder. I tried to ignore him, but people latched on to me like a cat does a visitor who hates cats.
“It’s not like any of us have important things to do, right?” His white teeth were the same shade as his crisp dress shirt. I smiled reluctantly, then dug through my purse and pulled out my credit card, spinning it to the optimal position for the new employee to use.
My turn at the front. I took a deep breath and said, “Tallamericanowithchocolateinagrandecupplease.”
The woman blinked. I blushed. She asked me again and I slowed down until she got it. The credit card fumbled in my shaking hand and dropped through her fingers. We battled apologies until she handed me the card and my receipt. The man behind me seemed to breathe down my neck. I retreated to the safety of the corner and waited for my order.
He followed me, all predatory grace and cunning smiles. “Mind if I join you?”
“Um…” I hesitated, which he took as an acquiescence.
“Thanks. I haven’t seen you here before, do you live in the area?”
“Yeah, but uh, where do you work?” My deflection worked. He launched into a tedious explanation about managing a retail center. I bounced on my toes. This was a terrible idea. Why did I come here? Why did people always think I wanted to talk?
“Liza?” a barista called.
I jerked like I’d been struck. “That’s me. Gotta run.”
“Wait, would you like to sit with me?” His words were rushed, but I’d already moved out of reach and conveniently choose not to hear him.
I snagged my coffee, added cream up to the brim, and bolted—pulling the door correctly this time. As I glanced back my inadvertent line buddy waved. He was far less alarming from a distance. Had I made a monster from a mouse? I returned his wave, but retreated to safety, just in case.
The sweet victory in my hand was worth the conversation with a stranger and looking foolish. I took a sip, the swirling creamy coffee and chocolate making my cheeks tingle with glee.
Maybe I’ll go back once my nerves calm down… in a month or two.