I tended to frequent the local coffeehouse, because the aromas there weren't too much like regular coffee or of sweet Venti-sized cinnamon-laced pageantries of commercialism. There were here-and-there stenches that wafted to me as I would sit in the stiff, wooden chairs, and I always huddled close to my gaping mug like it was my Holy Grail. I caught something like honey-cured ham once, and I would balk like a pitcher. A cheap excuse for a cologne once found its way to me, wrapping around my head and suffocating me. The swimmers have returned a couple times after that, swimming in that perfume-y stuff that no true human would dare to swim in, much less put their toes in.
And then there's the lady, that sixty-four-year-old epitome of sass, who barged through the doors and ordered her caramel latte in a size that will always sound foreign to a coffeehouse, critiquing every final movement made by the baristas.
She smelt like baby wipes
But yesterday, there was a hint of oranges around her, and I grinned at the unique difference.
"Are you saving that seat?"
My jaunt through the pungent wisps of orange-and-baby-wipe behind Ms. Sassy was cut short by some sketchy college student. He wore jeans, a leather jacket, long hair, and five-days' worth of unshaven beard. I shook my head, and he sat down.
"What are you doing?"
"There are quite a few other seats available." And you're butting in to my time adoring the odiferous delights around me.
"Sure are a few others."
I took a deep breath; he thought it was of relief or contentedness, but I knew perfectly well what I wished. It was to find one of the familiar aromas I knew and loved, and his mix of Castrol and old bananas was not that.
Ms. Sassy left with her usual words of wisdom, and the disgruntled band of the six-twenty-per-hour morning crew remained behind.
The lack of anything smelling remotely appealing or special to me brought the new dilemma of this guy in the seat across from me, the sight of him even less attractive than his repugnant odor.
"I haven't seen you around here before."
"I usually don't stop at this place."
"Why are you here then?"
"I wanted some coffee."
I said no more; I just stared at him, and he stared right back, taking a few sips of Americano before reaching over to the counter of sugar and milk right next to the table and finding a 2% thermos.
"What's your name?"
I didn't answer him. He did not seem to take the hint. I took off my glasses and pretended to clean them. My eyes welled up for a second before I readjusted them between the bridge of my nose.
Another smell broke in, another regular had passed through the gates, and the sketchy leather-jacket-wearing dickface in front of me did not move.
"Hey, look at that piece!"
The woman sent him a withering look before reaching the counter. Strawberries and a slight tang of mint were present, a scent I knew all too well. I sighed lightly, and the dickface picked up on it.
"He likes you, you know. You guys should go out this evening."
I blushed crimson and buried my face in my cup, taking in heavy dollops of vanilla and nutmeg.
"You're right, you're too old for her."
"Yeah, too old."
"Feisty this one!"
As quick as I possibly could, I leaped from my seat and snatched my half-full cup, burning my hand in the process. More curses left my lips, and I howled all the way to the sofas near the hearth, not that far from the pair of them, but far enough.
"The name's Bruno."
I will stick with Dickface.
Dickface grinned, all full of his unshaven sketchiness and his fucking leather-jacket-wearing self. The woman ordering her coffee gave another harsh look at Dickface and searched through her purse for the required money.
"He probably won't give you his name, toots," Dickface shouted even louder. "We'll call him Patty."
"Let's keep it down, eh?"
The manager had come from his den in the back, his bald head sweat-beaded and his belly basketball-sized. He wedged his way between the baristas and tilted his head, letting Dickface know he meant business.
"We know each other."
The woman snatched her change and dropped some of it on the floor. She bent down as rigidly as she could, but there was nothing for it. A catcall posed as the reflex. I could smell the strawberries even more. I wanted her to leave this torture.
"She just gets worked up sometimes. Him, too. I'm just kiddin' around with 'em."
"Let's hope that's the case," the manager huffed. "I want no funny business this early in the morning."
It's ten o'clock, and I wanted it to be earlier, five, where my bed and the Downy and the cotton and flowery textures of everything make me sedate and not awkward and defunct.
"Maybe you should leave and drink your coffee in your car," I suggested.
"No can do, bub," Dickface laughed.
"It'd do the world a service," the woman said, heading over to the cream-and-sugar station farthest from Dickface.
"You didn't tell us your name."
"Lisa, why don't you sit with us. Patty, come on. I won't bite, but I won't make any promises for Lisa."
"Is that all you can say, Patty?"
A film in my head flickered with the cappuccino in my cup arcing high in the air, almost in slow-motion, and dousing Dickface all over, singeing the sketchiest parts of his greasy, unshaven dick-face.
"Patty, I’m talking to you. At least you could show the courtesy of answering me properly, you faggot."
I do say that all the time, and I blushed more then, and I wanted to just hightail it, leave. Dickface
laughed louder than ever. A few of the other regulars farther away from us started to take notice of us three - as if what had happened before the manager had intervened was nothing at all to take notice of. Lisa took a sip of her coffee and nodded to me warmly.
"Hot damn! There is chemistry between you!"
"I'm just being polite. We've seen each other before, but we've never really talked."
"You just sip and sit next to each other?"
"No, we usually sit away from each other."
"You haven’t talked once, or sat side-by-side?"
"No, I’m sorry."
"That's no fun!"
"And it isn't fun when some stranger sits at the same table as you!"
These words left my mouth in a frenzied blur, my right hand shaking all the while so more now-lukewarm cappuccino found its place on it. I closed my eyes after saying this, going far away, taking in the strawberry-nutmeg-vanilla-Castrol mixture and wallowing in it.
"You are getting worked up over nothing, Patty."
"I just want to be left alone."
"Now we can't have that, can we?"
My teeth were grinding together as would a pestle against mortar. The contents of my cup were growing slim. I wanted another cup, but that had to wait. I was too busy attempted to keep Dickface from inflitrating everything that kept me sane and conciliatory, everything that put me into peacefulness. Something kept welling up inside me. There was something. I didn't feel right; I didn't feel comfortable. My eyes began to roll like dice across a game board.
"I really should be going," Lisa said, almost inaudibly.
"Patty, why don't you kiss Lisa good-bye. Walk her to her car. Make out a little bit. . ."
"I swear, if you say another word!"
"You all right, Patty?"
"He doesn't look too good, Lisa."
"Maybe you're the cause of it."
"Maybe you're the cause of it, Lisa."
"Watch your coffee!"
"Lisa, he's fine."
"It's spilling everywhere."
"Speak to me, Patty, you’re scaring me slightly now!"
"We have to help him!"
"I think it’ll pass. . ."
"Get the fuck out of my way."
"Oh my God!"
"Will you move?"
"What are you doing?"
"Don’t just stand there!"
Each voice stung my ears, and I couldn't take anything in anymore. All I could smell was the mint, and the strawberriness of Lisa. I smiled. Sweat began to form. There was heat slammed into me; I felt like I was in the middle of a printing press. There was nothing my eyes could see; all there was was sound. Occasionally, the smell would cut back in, mainly Lisa, sometimes Dickface. Maybe a touch of vanilla, but that was spilled cappuccino.
There came shudders, Lisa screamed once, I didn't remember several minutes, and Dickface sounded concerned for - in my opinion - the first, and only, moment of his life. All this blind to the world. I couldn't even feel a thing, except for the printing-press-ness of my invisible, heated prison. It crushed me. And breathed like an asthmatic. Another scream by Lisa. There was now old bananas tickling my olfactory senses. There might have been vomit. Or blood. Dickface was too close to me.
A shout from the manager brought me to my senses briefly, and I saw flashes of red and blue before sinking back into a searing black, where bananas and oil intermingled to provide a very unpleasant lurch in my stomach,
That was my last day at that coffeehouse. It was a shame, because it was nice there. But even after Dickface and Lisa helped me to the hospital, I could not go in. Every time I walked through the doorway, there was no baby wipe smell, no oranges, no vanilla-and-nutmeg comfort to soothe me. All that cut through the invisible air were strawberries, deep and heavy, but after a second of that glorious smell came the grotesque mixture of bananas and Castrol oil. I almost fainted again, almost vomited. I can't be like that anymore, I can't be that nervous, that anxious, that uptight. I rarely got uptight until then.
And I swore at Dickface over and over again when I was at the hospital and all the doctors and nurses were trying to diagnose me. I still do it when I'm alone. Or in my sleep. I tend to shout a lot in my sleep. People wonder why I look pale and why I shiver when it isn't cold out.
Lisa doesn't go to the coffeehouse anymore; I heard from some of the other regulars who I meet at the local bar or the Food Lion. They've seen Dickface though, with his sketchiness and his leather jacket, loud of course, but not as cruel and taunting as his initial visit. At least that'll make it liveable for them.
To tell you the truth, I don't drink much coffee anymore. I think the dislike came with the whole package. I've had it a couple times after I had gone all topsy-turvy at the coffeehouse, but I kept getting that wretched stench of oil whenever I put my nose near the rim of the mug, and the coffee naturally goes unfinished. I do like mint juleps when made right and also strawberry cheesecake, with very little of the strawberry and more of the sauce. But that's as far as my liking for those flavored items go. I have to go to a mechanic to get my oil changed, and no plantain-like fruits are allowed past my threshold.
Vanilla and nutmeg are still okay.
The flavors in and of themselves. Not so much the scents.
By the way, my name's Richard.
Lisa's not Lisa. Her name's Charity.
Dickface is still Dickface.