The following is a short story about two friends.
Saturday morning at the Blue Moon Coffee Shop is usually a quiet affair. Bright-eyed professional mothers stop in for their morning coffee fix, maneuvering their sleek jogging strollers around the tables, blue tooth affixed in their ears so they always speak a bit too loud when they order their non-fat soy lattes. Their babies looking out doe-eyed upon this world of deep, dark colors and rich, bitter smells, accessories to their progressive mothers. These women dance circles around the other patrons, like the writer who sits tucked into a corner booth, clothes coordinating with the deep brown leather. He stares blankly at his computer screen, occasionally running his thick fingers through his shaggy mane and sipping at his iced coffee, black with sugar stirred in. I wonder if he actually writes since it’s rare to see him typing for more than a few seconds at a time. If anyone is stupid enough to strike up a conversation with him, he will give you an hour long speech about how he is writing the next great American novel and that the quality of American literature has declined in the last 20 years, and on and so on. Not very many people talk to him.
An artist will occasionally wander in, clothes slouching, stained with paint or clay, looking as if they have lost their way out of their own special world. They come for food, muffins, scones, cinnamon rolls; they pay in coins and wrinkled dollar bills. Their smell clashes with the shop’s, a sort of natural human stench mixed with the artificialness of paint and earthiness of clay. They stay long enough to finish their food before wandering back out like zombies, slaves to their art.
There’s also the baristas, indifferent to the world outside of espresso machines and steamed milk, judging each patron for their tastes but smiling at them till their backs are turned, then whispering their snide remarks to each other as they prepare drinks. They believe they are superior to all other coffee sustained beings, that they are gods bestowing coffee blessings upon their followers. They don’t like me.
Every Saturday I order the same thing, a cranberry orange scone and a cup of hot water, I supply my own tea. I always sit in the same place, a small table for two by the front of the store, where I can keep an eye out for K.C. while letting my tea seep in my mug, a stout white piece proudly displaying the café’s name. She is late, as usual. I pull my sketchbook from my canvas messenger bag and begin to sketch an artist that has wandered in for a blueberry muffin and a mocha latte. I sketch his hands, his fingers long, tapered and elegantly beautiful though they are stained with a myriad of colors. I am so engrossed with my drawing that I don’t notice K.C. coming in till she plops down opposite of me setting down a blueberry scone and her vanilla soy latte in its tall paper cup. She launches into an apologetic out of breath speech before I can even greet her.
“Sorry I went for an extra long run this morning and when I got home Bubbie had torn a hole in one of the couch cushions and while I was cleaning that up Jeff called and we got in an argument about me moving to Kansas to be near him then I was almost out of gas so I had to stop and fill up and then find some windshield wiper fluid and figure out how to put it in and so I’m late.” She stops and inhaling a deep breath.
Bubbie is her hyperactive golden retriever who, despite their difference in size, is my poodle Mitzi’s best friend. They met each other last June when Bubbie slipped his leash and ran into us while we were taking a morning walk. He ended up staying with me for a few days after that while I attempted to track down K.C., who had entrusted his care to a friend, who had no experience with dogs, while she visited her boyfriend. Bubbie now occasionally stays over when he gets to be a bit much for K.C. to handle when her work demands too much of her attention.
She is wearing her usual Saturday morning outfit, a pink t-shirt, black running shorts and blue running shoes, hair pulled back into a ponytail with a pink scrunchie.
“So other than your usually tragic Saturday morning how did your week go?”
“Okay” she pauses a bit to think about it, “Okay. How about you?”
“I got everything done by their deadlines, so successful”
She nods her head and then takes a sip of her coffee, grimacing slightly as the liquid hits her tongue. She reaches out to grab two packets of pink sweetener from the container on the table and dumps them into her cup. She takes another sip and sighs with content.
“So you only worked this week?” Her eyebrows raise in question.
“No, I came here every morning, except for Thursday when I took Mitzi to the vet to get her shots.”
“So… basically you stuck to your normal routine. I thought we agreed you would shake some things up this week, try something new.”
“No… you suggested it and I said I would consider it.” I flip my sketch book closed and shove it back into my bag.
“I just want you to be happy Nic, you don’t have to be hostile” She takes another sip of coffee.
Ever since I met her, K.C. has been trying to fix my life. I think that is just the kind of person she is. She walked into my little studio apartment and the first thing she said, after thanking me profusely for taking care of her dog, was that painting the stark white walls a light blue might make me feel calmer and happier on an average basis. She then offered to take me out for Thai food to compensate for watching Bubbie. I had never had anyone talk to me that way before.
“K.C., I don’t need you to fix my life, it’s fine the way it is.” I savagely tear off a corner of my scone and stuff it into my mouth.
“Fine” she throws up her arms a bit, “Your life is perfect, I wish mine was.”
She is upset with me but she is trying to hide it. You can tell by the way her eyes crinkle at the edges. They do this every time I resist some change she has suggested to me. Like when I refused to allow her to give me a makeover last month, or when I donated the floral duvet she gave me to a thrift shop instead of placing it on my bed. Her eyes crinkle in an entirely different way when I give into her suggestions, like painting my apartment cornflower blue or submitting some of my personal drawings to a gallery.
“What’s so wrong with your life?” I ask. To me K.C. has a near perfect life, a job she loves, a boyfriend who adores her, friends to go out with, family to be close to. Other than a close friendship with my mom I have none of these things.
“Well there is this whole Jeff thing.” She says, taking a sip of her coffee.
“What did he do so wrong this time?”
I don’t really want to listen to K.C. prattle on about her boyfriend. Every Saturday it was the same thing, but I can’t help but getting caught up in their relationship. I think it is compelling to me because I have never experienced anything like it, a normal stable relationship with normal problems.
“I just don’t think Jeff understands why this whole moving thing upsets me” She twirls a long stand of hair that has escaped her ponytail with her index finger.
I huff and sit back, crossing my arms over my chest. Jeff, K.C.’s long time boyfriend lives in Kansas, he works for an oil company or something. He has wanted K.C. to move out there with him but she likes her job here. I can almost predict the next words that will come out of K.C.’s mouth.
“Maybe I should break up with him, it would be easier.” She drops the strand of hair and leans into me, “What do you think?”
I raise my eyebrows, “I am not exactly the best person to ask advice on this matter.”
I’m on the side of K.C. staying here because she happens to be the one friend I have managed to make in the past five years. I would be lonely without her. I don’t tell her this though and I am not comfortable giving advice on subjects I don’t know much about.
“Oh, come on, I am sure you have some sort of advice for me, you seem to know something about pretty much everything.”
I uncross my arms to take a sip of tea.
“No, I don’t.”
“Oh come on, surely you have had a couple of boyfriends…or girlfriends I guess.”
“K.C. the longest relationship I have been in lasted a whole two weeks. It was the longest two weeks in my life”
“I don’t really date often and when I do it is usually for one date.”
“Hmmm… I thought that… never mind. How come you haven’t dated much?”
I don’t talk much about my life before I moved to Sante Fe, it was a mess, so I understand why she wouldn’t know about my previous dating habits, and when she first started hanging out with me I may have given her the impression that I was dating a client so I didn’t seem so pathetically lonely.
I shrug while taking another sip of tea, “I thought we were talking about Jeff.”
The smile always present on K.C.’s face falters a little as she absentmindedly stirs the whipped cream into her coffee drink.
“I don’t know what to do” she reaches up to twirl her hair again.
“Well do you love him?”
K.C. pauses, smile gone from her face and then blinking she says “I don’t know.”
“Well that’s pretty crappy”
She scowls at me, “You’re right, I shouldn’t talk to you about this; all you can be is condescending and bitchy about it. Like you are so special because you are not like the rest of the world and you don’t need human contact” she is yelling slightly.
“That’s not true” I clench my jaw.
“Really… it isn’t? When is the last time you did anything outside of your little routine?” she gestures wildly with her hands to emphasize her point.
“When I met you actually, and a fat lot of good it did me.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” She sits on the edge of her seat, looking at me intently.
“It means that I really didn’t need little miss perfect with her perfect little problems messing around in my life”
Even as I say this, I know it is wrong, her persistent mucking about has only improved my life.
“You can’t call my life perfect!” mimicking me, “You don’t know anything about my life. You don’t know that I spend over 8 hours every day trying to improve the lives of people to only have them turn around and fuck it up again. And what do I get for it, nothing, no thanks, no accolades, just a shitty paycheck and the chance to do it all over again. Do you know how hard it is to keep a smile on my face?” She is yelling now and the other three patrons in the store and the two baristas are staring at us with thinly veiled curiosity.
“K.C. please calm down, I…”
“No, I won’t calm down, I am so tired of your shit!” she stands to emphasize her point and as she does so her knee hits the table, sending my half full cup of tea to the ground and her almost full cup of coffee straight into my lap.
I leap up, staring down at my t-shirt and jeans which are now covered in hot, sticky latte. I look up at K.C., her mouth forms an O and her eyes are wide and frightened. I don’t know exactly what it is but something about the expression on her face strikes me as funny and I giggle. Now I am full on laughing and K.C. looks at me for a few seconds as if I have lost my mind before joining in. So we stand on opposite sides of a small table, me, covered in coffee planted in a puddle of lukewarm tea, and her, cheeks flushed red and bits of dark hair escaping her ponytail, laughing.