Today was a really busy day and I was slightly worried about how I was going to manage with today's challenge - Second Person Coffee. After working late, I didn't get a chance to start on it until almost 9pm...
But, for some reason, I managed to blaze through it at a something approaching warp speed, It was good fun to get a chance to work in a style that always evokes (for me, at least) memories of the hard-boiled detective stories I read in my youth...
The cup of coffee sits on the little black table, no more than twelve inches in front of you.
It has sat there for at least three minutes now. When the waitress first brought it over and deposited it on the table you tried to will it towards you. Persuade it with power of thought alone to come to you. It remains unconvinced. Instead, it sits there, stolidly. Taunting you. I’ve got that caffeine you want, it seems to say, but I know you’re too hungover to get it.
Eyes little more than slits, scrunched up against the fat slabs of morning sunlight that slide in through the unguarded windows, you decide that either you’ve turned into a vampire overnight or the coffee’s right. You promise never to drink again. Then realise that’s a promise you’re only likely to be able to keep until the next bar you find yourself in, so instead you promise never to arrange early morning meetings again.
It doesn’t help that this place is so nice; so corporate, so facelessly sterile, so lacking in any kind of individuality that you half feel like checking to see if the guy working the barista isn’t just a clone of the guy you saw working the barista at the other coffee place of the same name that lies three blocks away. This is not the sort of place you want to be right now. Decked out in frosted glass and chrome, packed to the brim with fancy beige leather chairs and the kind of miniature black wooden tables that seem designed to comfortably hold nothing larger than maybe a thimble of espresso. This is not your kind of place.
Your kind of place, the coffee is more agreeable. It understands the kind of night you’ve had, understands the amount of alcohol that’s currently floating around your system. It doesn’t gloat. It’s far more open to the possibility of telekinesis. And the food, don’t get you started on the food.
You tried to order ham and eggs when you got here and they looked at you like you’re crazy. Actually, they looked at you like you’re a crazy middle-aged white guy, slightly balding, with a severe hangover. It’s the kind of look that manages to convey a powerful combination, intrinsic disgust mixed with fervent hope that this isn’t what lies ahead for them in so many years to come. You realised this is not a ham and eggs kind of joint. So you ordered whatever the waitress recommended which turned out to be half wholewheat and 100% organic and looked like nothing you’d ever seen before on a plate. It was kind of difficult to tell what was the packaging and what was meant to be edible so you ate anything that wasn’t plastic. It all tasted pretty much the same and it didn’t help the rolling, lurching feeling that’s swimming around in your stomach one jot.
It’s warm in here, like they believe you can only drink coffee by matching your body temperature to what’s being served up in the identikit white and green mugs and so, when the door opens and a gust of cool air sweeps in, it’s so pleasant that you just let it wash over you and don’t even bother to check the identity of the latest customers. Five seconds later, that turns out to have been something of a mistake.
Two men, thick set and dressed in cheap grey acrylic suits sit down heavily either side of you at the table. They could be brothers and maybe they are. Buzz crew haircuts, flat boxer’s noses, little black eyes that seem lost in faces that only a mother could love. And only a short sighted mother, at that. A man in a black shirt sits down opposite you. Gold medallion. Slicked back hair. His crumpled face seems familiar but your brain protests when you try to dredge up the details. You figure it might be good to know what kind of trouble you’re getting into and so cajole your memory to try harder. Yeah, yeah, I’m on it, it says and then promptly goes back to sleep.
“Joey, Joey, Joey.” says the man, Jersey accent so thick that he must be putting it on. No one talks like that outside of gangster movies. “I am not pleased that I have to sitting here today.”
He picks up your coffee and sips from it. The coffee doesn’t even try to protest. You really wish that you could remember who this was.
You feel that you should probably protest but struggle to get your priorities straight. Should you protest at his coffee drinking? Should you protest at his comically bad accent? It feels like there should be something else to protest about but your brain, in its inebriated state, is still trying to play catch up. Be with you in a moment, it says.
“I talked to your bookie, Joey” continues the man, “He says you’re still short fifty large. So let’s be straight. The money’s in my hands by tonight or Tony and Frankie here are going to find you and they’re gonna take you apart bit by bit. What’s left of you, they’ll be able to fit through a grille, you understand what I’m sayin?”
He leans forward slaps your cheek and then stands up and walks away, swiftly followed by the hulkish Tony and Frankie.
Vincent ‘The Cleaver’ Finelli says your memory as the door closes behind them before reminding you that you saw him on a late night documentary about mafia bosses who’d been tried for murder more than ten times but never convicted.
You struggle to think why it was that he was talking to you.
Your name’s not Joey, pipes up your brain, you really should protest about that.
This, you decide, has not been the best start to a day.