I Work In A Coffee Shop This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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   Stepping into work I am bombarded by the blaring saxophone and the sharp voice of the talented Dave Matthews Band that is playing over the CD player hanging high above. I take notice of the Swiss Chocolate Almond brewing in a coffee pot just next to me. I wander over into the back room and grab myself an apron off a small metal hook that is barely hanging onto a wall by a screw. I walk back into main room stepping over boxes of newly arrived products, crunching the loose styrofoam. Then my walk tums into a sprint as I run over to greet an old woman walking into the store. I work in a coffee shop.

"Hi, can I help you?" I ask.

"No, thanks, I'm just lookin' around," replies the lady.

"Okay, if you need any help, just let me know." Now I swing my direction around so I am facing a customer who's ready to make a purchase. It's only a small regular coffee. The man ordering it is in a rush because he only has five minutes left on his break.

"Do I get a mall employee discount with that?" he asks as he pours a splash of half and half into his short burst of caffeine.

"You sure do!" I quickly respond remembering that I will probably be answering that question countless times throughout the long day. I work in a coffee shop.

It's now about ten-thirty and the pulsating sound of Enigma is putting the shop in an industrial, more modern state of mind. I notice a young couple walk over to my counter. Looking at their faces I feast my eyes on numerous facial piercings and bleached hair of these two "adults" clad in baggy pants and striped long-sleeve shirts. They take no notice of me except to order two large vanilla cappuccinos, heavy on the foam. Still at the counter, the two continue their conversation about the awesome time they had at the Rave in New York City last night. They snatch their means of awakening with hands painted with black nailpolish and place a handful of crumpled up money on the counter. I work in a coffee shop.

The sun shines against one wall loaded with jams and syrups as the height of the day is upon us. The ever-growing spirit of Hootie And The Blowfish is calling out to the people below scurrying about the store. By now the noon rush has entered the store in search of coffee and other means of energy to help them start their long haul of Christmas shopping. Everywhere I turn there's another customer asking "How much are your espresso makers?" and "Does that come in decaf?" and my personal favorite, "Can I have a sample of that?" With a broad smile I politely and enthusiastically answer every question. I work in a coffee shop.

The shadow on the wall fades as the late afternoon hours fall upon us. Surprisingly, our evening rush has elapsed, starting to rewind for the repeat tomorrow. Natalie Merchant sings her praise and happiness to the four browsing people. I am at the head of the counter wiping down spills of hot chocolate and cafe mocha. The manager is gathering her things to get ready for a rare early night. Now I am by myself in this lonely yet comforting store, thinking about the people who exclaimed only a few hours ago in confusion and hastiness, and are now calmly at home with their families munching on a home-cooked meal. I work in a coffee shop.

It's around eight-thirty in this place where I work and I'm all alone. Getting ready to close, I notice a young-looking man somberly walking in, head turned toward the floor which is in desperate need of a vacuum.

"How are you doing tonight, sir?" I ask. Surprisingly I receive no reply. Looking away from me, he puts both elbows onto the counter and asks politely for a small coffee. He says he doesn't care what kind, he just needs something to keep him awake, in barely a whisper. I look up, confused, and to my startled surprise see a small tear roll from his eye. The tear then loses its grip and makes its way to the counter in a puddle. I quietly ask him if he's okay as the sorrowful mellow music of Mazzy Star's "Fade Into You" gently cries. Finally the man looks up.

The man wisely informs me in a sultry voice, "Don't ever take anything for granted. Value what you have when you have it." I begin to ponder this. "I'm sorry," he says to me. Before I even have a chance to reply, he continues his sorrowful statement, "I ... I ... just left the hospital," he whimpers. "I just lost my son to sudden infant death syndrome, or whatever you call it."

My heart full of sympathy for this man, I walk around the counter and stand face to face with him. He asks me if I can sit with him for a minute, so he won't be alone. We sit silently at first. I am too scared to say anything for fear of hurting him more, so instead I quietly ask his name. That tiny show of caring sparks a flow of anger, sadness, and denial that would leave me shaking for hours. He tells me so passionately, his voice so full of hate and love how he and his wife walked upstairs in the home they thought was a safe haven for their family, to find their only son, four months old, lying face down motionless in a crib. "My wife is still at the hospital. I couldn't take it any longer and had to get out of there," he adds as more tears start to roll of his face. "The paperwork ... the doctors ... the look on my wife's face ... it ... it was just too much for me to handle." After talking for what seemed like hours (but in reality was only ten small minutes), the man stands up and walks over to the counter. "Thanks for the company," he barely says.

"You always have a place to come whenever things get rough," I reply in a deep sympathetic tone.

"How much do I owe you?" he asks.

"Absolutely nothing," I barely manage to reply as I struggle to hold back tears. I watch as this man drags out the door for his journey back to the hospital, dreading the long, hard future without his son. I work in a coffee shop.

I don't feel like cleaning up tonight, I think to myself. So instead I sit down in a wide couch in the comer of the room clutching my face in my hands. "The boss will understand," I, for some reason, say aloud. "She'll understand." I get up, turn off the CD player, and walk out the door, locking it behind me. I take one last look through the glass smudged with fingerprints and

think to myself ... I work in a coffee shop. 1


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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