I didn’t notice the man in front of me on line at the coffee counter in the bookstore on Park Avenue until I heard him tell the girl working there that he wanted his mocha “forty degrees cooler than you regularly make it.”
It was the specificity of the request that made me look at him. Pale, black hair, black beard just long enough to be unfashionable, mid-twenties. Then he told her that since he would not be putting a lid on the mocha and drinking it through the hole in the lid, he would be drinking directly from the cup. So, he wanted to watch her put the cup his drink was going to go in, into another cup, so, and this is an exact quote: “I’ll know you didn’t touch it.”
The girl didn’t say anything, she just made his drink...without touching it. I looked at the books he had in front of him. Graphic novels. Comic Books. That groundbreaking lipstick lesbian Batwoman issue.
The counter girl gave him his mocha, he went away. I bought my coffee and my chili and I have no idea who may have touched them.
From where I sat in the cafe carved out of a corner of the bookstore I could see the young man with the beard, sipping his uncontaminated mocha and leaning close to his comic books.
And I thought, whatever else I have done in this life or any previous life, I haven’t done anything so terrible I deserved that guy’s parents.