The queue hadn’t moved in several minutes, that’s why Eliza didn’t feel bad answering the call. She wondered if they were training someone new or if there was pretentious asshole up front being demanding. Having ashamedly been both, and on both sides of the counter, she knew how much that could clog up the system. There were only three people in the world she would actually answer a call from: Her Father, her best friend, and whomever may be delivering her food.
It was Rory. Her best friend.
“Morning cutie,” Eliza said. “Yes I went. I told you I would. I know, I know but y’know what I’m like. Hey, you little bitch. Not sure that was called for hahaha. It was fun, you were right. Not always, but, I guess I’ll admit, often.”
The queue moved forward once place. A young hipster with four coffees in one hand and two bags of food in the other walked past unsteadily. He almost tripped and she could feel the collective breath holding of the entire queue as he tried to balance the coffees again like a spinning plate on the end of a stick.
“Oooof, nearly witnessed coffee mass suicide. Hahahaha, I would have thrown myself on the ground to lick it up at this point, feel like I’ve been waiting a lifetime. Oh just down the road, y’know the one by the Station? No the other one, the other other one, yeah.”
She stepped forward again absentmindedly and bumped into the man in front who had merely bent down to take something from his bag that was placed at his feet.
“Oh shit, I’m sorry. Didn’t mean to uh, like that, ah, awkward.”
“That’s alright,” the man said, turning round. “Maybe I can return the favour sometime?”
Eliza let the silence hang in the air as she stared him dead in the eyes, phone still to her ear, and waited for him to turn back round sheepishly and leave her alone.
“Tell me about it,” she said, striking back up the conversation with Rory. “The absolute worst. Sometimes I think it’s a blessing y’know that I’m gay and don’t have to actually voluntarily deal with men.”
The man in front’s shoulders tensed, she could see his hands clenching into fists and for a flash of a moment she couldn’t tell if he was trying to control himself or if he was going to turn around and punch her. Her heart skipped what felt like a lifetime when he actually turned, brushed past her and left the building.
The queue moved forward again, more people filed in behind and the whole thing started to feel like a Sisyphean nightmare.
“Yeah, he just left hahaha. Didn’t die. Good day,” she said. “Right, where were we? Oh my god yes, so I uh, I think I met someone last night. Calm down calm down, it’ll probably end up in nothing. Because, that’s just how my life goes. Hahaha, yeah, like, what’s that about? Seriously? Anyway, yeah, she was cool and smart and like annoyingly funny but not like annoying annoying y’know. Exactly, yes. She could have her own Netflix special or something and I’d fall in love with her and repeat her jokes all. the. time. Oh yes, of course. I was super calm and super casual and just walked up to her and told her she was beautiful and then the lights dimmed and everyone around us moved in slow motion. Hahahahah. Don’t ask stupid questions then, have you met me?”
The woman in front of her, now the creepy guy had gone, turned her head as if to peruse the sandwiches but rolled her eyes.
“Excuse me, I’m trying to have a private conversation,” Eliza said to the woman, who turned back as if she didn’t hear a thing.
“Some people today honestly, it’s not like I’m shouting loud or anything, God. Huh, oh no, no. Totally fucked it. Tried to make a joke, but they were talking about something different than I thought and it did not go down well so I just like laughed maniacally as if they were the idiots for not getting it and backed away. Yup, classic me. I almost saw her a couple more times but there was a nice big houseplant that somehow just like kept getting in my way whenever she walked past.”
The queue moved forward again, she was finally approaching the end. The judgemental woman in front ordered a skinny cappuccino, double shot, with vanilla, chocolate on top.
“I need to get out of this city,” she said. “There’s nothing left for me here. I know but— yes. Yes. You make sense but— will you stop okay? Not that it matters because I’ll never see her again, and knowing my luck she’s not even into women, but, I don’t know. I’d tell her she was cute, but like cute in that way that’s not immediately apparent. Wait does that sound mean? Not like a Hello Kitty cushion but like a moody cat, no that’s worse. Her smile, I’d tell her it was beautiful. That’s basic, but safe. Okay, I’d ask her for a drink or a coffee or something and then see if she could pick the place because I just know she’d know somewhere a thousand times better—. Fine, I’d pick somewhere. Confidence. Oh, hi. Good morning. Black Americano please, to go. Thank you. You’re right you’re right. Okay, so if the Universe ever conspires to allow us to meet again, I’ll ask her out. I can’t, no. I can’t ask him for her number, that’s weird and then also, if she turns me down, more people will be aware of my humiliation. I’ll leave it up to the Universe. Small world and all that right?”
The barista handed Eliza the Americano. She felt like all the blood in her body had rushed to her face, turning her bright red and sweaty like a tomato glistening on the vine, as she turned to leave and saw her, two people behind in the queue.
The girl was looking at Eliza, smiling. ‘It is a cute smile’ she thought again. Eliza looked down, the hypothetical courage summoned during the phone call quickly vanishing. She was fully prepared to walk passed, mumbling nonsense into the phone and leave when an arm reached out from the queue.
“Oh, huh, I mean hi,” Eliza replied, panic setting in.
“I have a serious soft spot for cute moody cats,” the girl said. “Fancy sitting down and drinking that coffee with me?”