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Coffee with Kelly
Coffeehouses have a strange way of managing to brew up both strong pots of java and terribly awkward situations. I’ve never developed an affinity for espressos or mocha lattes, but my blind date, Kelly, insisted that I just had to try the drinks made by her favorite drug dealer, er, coffee house, an establishment ironically named the Speak Loud Café. I say ironically because it was the type of place that actually discouraged talking: the building was small, making any privacy susceptible to being intruded on by eavesdroppers; the tables were just about 5 feet in length and width, suppressing any prospect of having intimate conversation without leaning over in a near horizontal fashion, a position that looks more like sexual assault than an invitation to converse; and the water kettles were powered a bit too strongly, producing a thick steam that muffled the sounds of the shop and all of its customers.
I have to mention that I’ve always been cautious of girls who have a self-proclaimed coffee addiction. The prospect of being around someone whose caffeine engine is always lit scares me, not just because it’s officially classified as a Class II Alkaline Stimulant but because I’ve long felt that too many people already live life in fast-forward all of the time. Plus, I’d never kissed a girl at this point, and I didn’t want the memory of my first intimate embrace to be tainted by the distinctive odor of freshly roasted Folgers.
By the time I reached the Speak Loud Café, Kelly was already there. The only other person in the shop was an eccentric looking girl at the counter who might have been 19 years old. Given her ironic glasses and strangely color hair (I couldn’t decide whether it was quite red or purple), I decided to dub her “Hipster Girl.”
I had never met Kelly before. A mutual friend, Julian, had linked us together, saying that he thought we would be a good match, but I had my apprehensions. Several blind dates that my friends had set me up on before had ended up terribly: the women were often rude, pretentious, and unattractive. One wasn’t even a woman.
Kelly and I exchanged formalities, and then she ushered me over to the counter so that we could order drinks. I perused the menu, stopping for a second over exotic names such as “Broberlin Elixer” and “The Lucas Parker.” Eventually, Hipster Girl turned to me and batted her eyelids.
“So, what would you like today?” she asked in a too-sweet voice.
Unwilling to show indecisiveness in front of Kelly, I ended up pointing assertively to a strange looking box of tea labeled “Magical Rainbow.” With just a picture of a unicorn lying amongst several assorted fruits on the cover, the flavor of the tea was just as ambiguous as the color of Hipster Girl’s hair. I handed over a few dollars and received back a steaming mug of what seemed to be steeped marijuana leaves. I looked over at Kelly to see what she thought of my purchase, but she had already taken a seat at a table in the corner of the store.
I settled down into my chair and began to speak. Strangely enough, Kelly either didn’t hear me or didn’t care, and she launched into her own recollection of what had to be her entire life story. She droned on and on for what seemed to be an eternity. Finally, either because she ran out of things to say or because her lungs were on the brink of failure from overuse, she stopped, and a heavy and terrible silence shrouded us.
After a few seconds she asked, “So what do you do?”
I meekly responded, “Well, I’m currently in law school.”
I was afraid of advancing the conversation any further and instead opted to sip quietly on my tea. Kelly eyed me suspiciously, as if she didn’t approve of the curvature of my lips as they embraced the side of my mug, and after a few painfully long seconds she blurted out:
“Why won’t you talk to me?”
The sharpness of her tone, combined with the bluntness of the message, erected a wall between us that seemed to kill the chance of us reconciling any sort of friendship. I was taken aback and unsure what to say, so I just sat there with my mouth stupidly gaped open for a few seconds.
I am often touted as quite the conversationalist, and so it did strike me as strange that I couldn’t think of a single thing to say to this girl who had already proven herself to be openly loquacious. Kelly, realizing the harshness of her words, became embarrassed and began to fumble around for an apology. I was dazed by the situation and reached over for my mug, slightly grazing it with my arm in a misestimate of its location and knocked it to the ground, sending the liquid splashing all over my legs and the acrylic mug tumbling to the ground.
The tea, which at this point was a little cooler than lukewarm, began to seep into the inner thigh of my pants and underwear, recreating the same sensation felt when you’re in the first grade and couldn’t get your hand up in enough time to ask to use the restroom.
“Your cup fell.” For some reason Kelly felt it necessary to point out the obvious.
“Oops.” The way that my voice resounded against the walls made me feel terribly stupid.
My face turned red as I hunched over and scooped up the remnants of the broken mug. I was almost grateful for the accident since it provided some kind of closure to the terribly awkward conversation with Kelly, but seeing Hipster Girl come sauntering over with a mop and kettle of Magical Rainbow put a further damper on my mood.
“It’s no problem. Would you like a refill?” she asked in an overly sultry voice. It was more of a demand than a request; the overly hungry tone in her voice betrayed Hipster Girl’s now clearly amorous intent.
“Sure”, I responded apathetically, just praying for the night to be over.
The tea dribbled out of the kettle with a tantalizingly slow and methodical drip, almost as if Hipster Girl was trying to seduce me on the spot by flaunting her prowess at pouring tea. As the Magical Rainbow began to flow, steam rose up out of the mug, obscuring the faces of both Hipster Girl and Kelly, making them physically indistinguishable from one another even though they were both a mere five feet away. I bowed my head in reverence for the moment, thinking about the two girls in front of me and how I was glad that, at least for a second, I didn’t have to deal with their judgments, stares, or expectations. I was finally alone and wanted it to stay that way.
Time and chemistry weren’t on my side though, and the crisp, cool air reduced the thick steam to mere wisps after a few seconds, revealing the absurdity of the image before me. Even though the dense fog was lifted, Kelly and I still couldn’t look at each other eye to eye, and so we instead sat there in contemplation, left with nothing but the burden of silence as we struggled with the broken emptiness that exemplified itself not only in my newly shattered cup but also in ourselves.