The Coffee Shop Guy
Back in college, I used to work long hours as a waitress at night up until 2 or 3 in the morning just to try to pay my student loans. At my campus, there was a coffee shop that would close shortly after I got off work. I’d go there every night after work to be greeted by the same warm smile of a guy probably not too much older than me. I’d order the same thing every night, a large vanilla frappe with whipped cream and extra caramel drizzled on top.
I never really saw anyone working with him whenever I came in. He’d be wiping down the counter and when the door chimed as I walked in, he’d look up and give me the brightest smile that always made my nights better. After a few weeks, I became a regular customer. He was like my own personal barista. We never really spoke to one another. Just the normal greetings, “Hey Sarah! The usual?”, he’d say right away as I would sit a table by the cash register. Sometimes when he wasn’t paying attention, I’d look at him and notice how tired he was. He’d sigh and lean against the counter with his back turned towards me, staring up at the ceiling for a brief second and then going back to checking inventory or cleaning the machines. I’d wonder to myself if he was working late night shifts to pay off his student loans too. Was he a senior? Was he in grad school? I’d never know.
One particular night, I came in extremely tired. My head was banging in pain, and my legs and feet were aching. I opened the door, too worn out to lift my head and see his face beaming towards me. I dragged my feet over to my usual table and set my things down. I buried my face in my hands and thought to myself, how much longer can I keep this up? I could feel his gaze pelting me like hail. He didn’t say anything to me. A few moments later, as I rested my head on the table just seconds from blacking out, I heard someone set something down on the table along with a piece of paper sliding across it. Suddenly I felt someone's hand...