Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Caffe Dreams

He still gets that sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach when he drives or walks by the corner where the coffeehouse stands. Like an ex-girl friend he never got over. Even four years later he still misses that leaky steam wand. The only way he can spend any time at the caffe is if he’s drinking beer after beer. Although he now has a job that he spent years and years going to school for, he still misses being a barista. It was the one time he felt famous. He felt like people knew him. He felt important. He didn’t remember everyone’s name, but he knew their drink: Skinny latte for him, soy chai for her, large white mocha for them to split.

And although making drinks was his favorite part, it wasn’t the only thing loved. He met so many people. He connected with them. He felt like they came back and returned night after night to see him. Maybe it was the way he flirted with them at the register, or the way he put just enough foam on top of their latte, or the fact that he filled their wine glass up more than the other employees. And he loved the people he worked with.

Most of them. Except the one who caused him to lose his job. He doesn’t have any proof, but he knows it was her. She never really liked him. He made drinks better than her. He was loved more by the customers than her. He had more seniority than her. Who knows what the reason was, but she was the reason he lost his job. She was the reason he was dumped by the greatest job he ever had.

He loved going to work every day. How many people can say that? He even loved seeing the customers that talked too much or stayed too long or tipped too little. He loved the smart-ass know-it-alls. He loved the artsy folk. He loved the retired military muscle heads. He loved the slightly tipsy college students. He loved the homeless people who tried asking all of his customers for spare change.

Even the creepy, moldy, damp basement is a pleasant memory. He would go gown to get supplies or empty the bucket of dirty coffee drippings or turn the power back on after one too many people plugged their laptop into the outlets lined along the walls. The stairs were creaky and narrow and dark, so he had to hold on to the walls as he slowly walked down the steps. And on the way back up, with his hands full of bags of coffee beans and bottles of booze and paper cups, he would have to balance just right so he didn’t send himself and all of the supplies crashing to the soggy floor below.

He still, to this day, can’t go into a coffeehouse, any coffeehouse, because he knows the kids behind the counter don’t care as much about making drinks as he did. A macchiato does not come in a sixteen ounce cup with caramel and whipped cream. In its traditional form it is served in a small, shot glass or cup. A true macchiato is just a shot of espresso with a small dollop of foamed milk on top. And please, for the sake of all things holy, do not pronounce it expresso! He was such a coffee snob. If he mis-poured a shot of espresso, he would dump it out and start over. If he didn’t froth the milk perfectly, it would go down the drain.

Maybe part of the reason he stopped drinking coffee was because he no longer worked at the caffe. He tells everyone his doctor suggested it, which he did, but maybe that was just a coincidence. Needless to say coffee has not touched his lips in a long time. Needless to say he still wishes he was behind the coffee bar slinging drinks and making connections with the muscle heads and artsy folk and the know-it-alls and the slightly tipsy college students. And needless to say he still dreams about that drippy steam wand.

No comments:

Post a Comment