A Second Cup of Coffee
It is Saturday morning and I find myself ensconced in the corner of Green’s cafe. It seems to me that the name isn’t the only thing that has changed over the years as I make my quiet observations while sipping at my Earl Grey tea and picking at the weird pastry concoction I had to settle for when they stopped offering scones. Learn to make scones. I add this to the growing list of self-appointed tasks I have for myself in the small blue notebook that sits by my plate. It is a pitiful list really and if I was pressed to sum it up into one item it would simply say grow up. Marring the properties of the list are the doodles that fill the margins, caricatures of the people who visit the café. The writer with his old-fashioned glasses and smug looks, who lounges in the corner waiting for someone to recognize him and approach him with the reverence of a worshipper. I have rendered him with a crown of outdated ball point pens and a lapel pin that reads “New York Times Bestseller”. The gaggle of teenagers in their yoga pants, gazing at their phones while somehow holding a conversation with each other occupy another corner of the shop and my notebook. The artists still wander in and out, better fed now that the shop offers organic sandwiches and salads. Their hands still stained with paints, their eyes still lost in their personal worlds. The baristas are kinder now, younger too. They cheerfully offer up my cup of hot water, understanding my need to provide my own tea, and try to cajole me into buying one of their healthier treats.
There are some things that haven’t changed, I am still waiting for KC. I have chosen a larger table that could easily seat four but I know we will need the extra space. I have substituted my ever present sketchbook for the blue notebook with its lists. I stopped bringing my sketchbooks when the last one was ruined beyond repair. They cost me considerably more than this notebook I bought for just under a dollar. Just a small change really to shore myself up against the inevitable chaos that KC brings with her these days. The bell on the door tinkles and I look up to catch KC enter the store, large bag slung over her shoulder and a small child balanced on her opposite hip. An exiting patron props open the door and she gives him an enthusiastic thanks before scanning the room. When her eyes land on me they fill with relief and she weaves her way over to the table. She plops down the bag in one empty chair.
“Oh, thank god you are here before me. You wouldn’t believe the day I have had so far. I will tell you about it but first I need coffee. Here.”
She thrusts the squirming child in my direction.
“You be good for Aunt Nicky” she instructs the thing before turning to make her way back towards the counter.
I am left holding a squirming baby at arm’s length, it is looking at me with an expression of blank awe and an alarming amount of drool is coming from its mouth. This is Butler and despite being my god-child I have absolutely no idea how to deal with him. His legs start to kick and it occurs to me that I should probably bring the child in closer to myself. I balance him delicately on my right knee which puts him in grabbing distance of my pastry which is what he does with little hesitation. He has two fistfuls of raspberry and icing covered puff pastry in the time it takes for me to realize that I should have pushed the plate away from him. At once he tries jamming one fist into his mouth.
The panic that has begun to build in me from the moment KC thrust this chaos in my arms becomes full blown. I try to pull the fist away from his mouth while holding the ever squirming mass secure on my lap. How old is this child? Eight, no nine months. Is that too early for food? I don’t know. It seems too early. I get one fist away from his mouth and he immediately jams the other in. I also extricate it and make a grab for the pile of napkins that sits towards the middle of the table. I wipe at his mouth, sticking a finger in to remove the mush that he has managed to get in there. I don’t want him to choke. Butler takes offense to me ridding him of his prize though and lets out a squeal of indignity before biting down on my finger. I let out a yelp.
“You have teeth, since when do you have teeth?”
I pull my finger from his mouth and look at the small indentations he has left behind. I look back down and Butler who has jammed another fist into his mouth and sigh. He has managed to wipe whatever pastry he had in his hands into the front of his pale blue outfit. It now sports red streaks, one which is smeared near the mouth of the tiger decorating the shirt, giving the beast a macabre appearance. He looks up at me and gurgles through his fist. I shake my head at him.
“You are a strange child.”
He responds my gurgling some more and squirming his way closer to me. I let him. I look up to find KC. She is still in line waiting for her turn at the counter. I sigh again. I reach for my tea and take a large gulp of the luke-warm concoction before pushing it and the desecrated pastry back from the edge of the table, out of Butler’s reach. I glance down at him. For now he seems content to keep drooling on his fist while gazing about the shop in wonder. He seems to like to people watch, which for now is the only thing we have in common. I reach over for my notebook and add another item to the list. Stop buying pastries. The movement catches Butler’s attention and he makes a grab for the book. I push it away and shove the pen behind my ear before he can get it.
“When you are older and learn to hold a pen, I will teach you to draw.” I tell him sternly.
Keep pens away from Butler is on one of the pages of my list. I still remember the one Saturday he managed to cover himself in ink while in my brief moment of care. I hear a chuckle to my left and swivel my head to meet the gaze of the man sitting there.
“Your son is cute” He tells me.
For a second I am alarmed. My son? Butler looks nothing like me, his blue eyes and sandy hair are all a product of KC.
“He’s not my son.”
I respond as Butler twists in my lap and I find myself struggling to support him as he uses my body to climb his way into a standing position. He squeals in triumph as he reaches for the pen and manages to clasp it and a chunk of my hair. I let out another yelp and try to get the pen before Butler manages to get it into his mouth. He finds my efforts amusing though and squeals again while bouncing up and down a bit. I have to abandon my attempt to regain my pen in order to support him. He squeals again and increases his bouncing now that he feels more secure.
The man chuckles again and I shoot him a quelling look. Butler is waving my pen in his fist and it is coming closer to his mouth and just as he is about to chomp down on it a hand reaches over plucks it from him. I glance up at KC who is setting down her coffee and pulling on of the café’s high chairs over to settle her child in. Thank god. Butler, who is mildly upset about losing his toy, gurgles at his mother as she plucks him from my grasp and plops him into the chair. I let out a sigh of relief and glance over at the man again. He is still watching us so I scowl at him till he adverts his eyes.
“Sorry about your pastry.” KC says.
She sits down opposite of me, extracting a bag of odd shaped cereal stuff and pouring it out on the tray for Butler. He squeals in delight and begins to fist the stuff into his mouth.
“It’s fine, I wasn’t going to eat it anyway. Sorry about the mess.” I motion to Butler’s sticky red streaked shirt.
“No, every time you leave him with me he somehow ends up covered in something. I am so bad at this.”
“Really Nic, it’s fine. I can’t leave him alone with Dave for five seconds without him being covered in something.”
“Yeah, but that’s Dave.”
Dave is KC’s husband, a bit of a dork in my opinion but he makes KC happy and so I am alright with him. I think he kind of just tolerates me but I am not the easiest person to like. There are some days where I feel like KC is the only person who truly does like me, well and Butler for whatever reason.
“So, tell me about this day of yours.”
KC launches into a spirited retelling of her day so far. The broken dishwasher, the new puppy digging holes in her backyard, Dave forgetting where his golf clubs are kept, the car seat struggle and Butler already on is third outfit of the day. I nod along and offer comments where they are needed. She needs this, small outlet to vent about the chaos of her life. I need this, a small connection to something outside of myself. I could never maintain sanity in the amount of chaos that KC seems to thrive on but I need a little bit to pull me from the stagnant routine of my life.
“So, what about you, anything exciting this week?”
I shrug. I still live in my same apartment, I still come down to this shop every morning, still spend the majority of my days hunched over my drawing tablet getting things done before the deadline. The only difference is that I no longer have Mitzi to help stave of the loneliness of the routine. She’s been gone six months now.
“Have you considered getting a new dog yet?”
KC was there when I had to put Mitzi down. I think I scared her because it was the first time she ever saw me cry.
“I’m not ready yet.”
She nods. She stopped trying to push me to do stuff a while ago, sometime after she met Dave. I glance at my notebook and think about my list. Grow up.
“I’m thinking about moving.”
“Out of town?” She asks
I shake my head.
“Just a small move, a different area perhaps. I would never leave Sante Fe though.”
I reach into my bag and pull out a real estate flier to show her.
“This place is small but I could afford it and it has a yard.”
“Oh, it is pretty, plus this is closer to where we live now.”
“Yeah. It makes more sense to buy a place and it is kind of ridiculous for you to have to come all the way across town for coffee just because we are use to this place.”
“Right.” There is a pause. “What is this about Nic?”
“I need to change a bit, need to shake up my routine, grow up maybe. I feel like everything is changing and I am still just the same as I was five years ago. I’m afraid I am going to get left behind.”
“Well, I think a little change is a good idea Nic. Plus it will be nice to have you closer for this pregnancy.”
“Are you pregnant again?”
“Just found out this morning.”
Butler squeals along with me.
“Who knows with this change, maybe you will meet someone and you will have kids soon too.”
I stop and look over at Butler with is drool and stickiness.
“Yeah, maybe not.”
I catch the man looking over at us again out of the corner of my eye. Maybe.
The first story featuring these characters can be found here