Monday, January 26, 2009


Yadira ArroyoIt’s just another morning at the corporate coffee shop where I work. I can see the golden rays of our L.A.-faithful sun kicking it on the sidewalk. I shift my attention to my job and systemically scan the lobby for tables that need busing or things that need arranging, but find everything impeccable; I’ve done my job well. I lean against the counter behind the register, and take a self-allotted break from nothing. My mind momentarily lingers on the thought of getting paid as the clock ticks. The prospect of one more dollar is unexciting though, so I am forced to thrill myself otherwise.

I drag my eyes slowly towards the undeserving Ripple TV screen and catch the horoscope frame. Intrigued, I walk closer to the bait and can see the first four: Aries, Taurus, Gemini and Cancer. Filled with mystic anticipation, I wait for the screen to change so that the next four are revealed.

"Don’t fret about circumstances. Your boundless energy is perfect for making life a bit easier to live," reads the Virgo horoscope.

I gush at the liveliness compliment. Why, thank you, Mr. Ripple.

My circumstances sure are dire.

I walk sluggishly back to the counter and place my hands in my apron pocket. I wait for customers who find nothing interesting happening in Downtown L.A.’s business district on a sunny Sunday morning.

I look around and see that my supervisor is in the back room. Good. I round my painted lips, bend my tongue inside my mouth and start to whistle the Star-Spangled Banner. Suddenly, I see myself marching in a patriot parade, red-white-and-blue glitter bikini and all. My hair is yellow and my eyes are blue and well, it’s just not me. I snort to stop myself from laughing.

I look through the glass doors and finally see someone approaching. Even from inside the store, I can see that his jean jacket is faded and that his dirty blonde hair is, well, dirty. He reaches for the door handle and I straighten myself up.

"Hi!" I greet him.

"Hello there," he smiles. "Refill."

At that moment he presents his cup, and I cock a mental eyebrow. The paper cup is tattered and filthy; I keep a pleasant front.

"I always wanted to be a barista," he starts.

There is a sneaky quality to his tone, as if he was cunningly flirting with the spoken word, but I relate nonetheless. At one point, I too had believed that this was the dream job.

"I am the only one in my family who has not been a barista," he continues.

I fake a chuckle now, not because I am snobbish, but because his simple comment just turned into a customer story.

Taking the sad excuse for a liquid-holding container in my hand, what I should be doing is demanding to see some proof of purchase.

"Dark or mild?" I ask him.

"Dark," he chooses. "I’ve applied to work here before, but you know what always gets me?"

"What?" I ask him.

"Those damn questions! You know, the ones that are really obvious but that try to catch you in a lie."

"Yeah," I say, my attention on the cup. I try in vain to lock the lid on its worn-out rim. Doesn’t he know I could burn him?

"They’re so obvious though," he repeats.

"Yeah," I say.


A week later, during a weekday-morning shift, my coworker begins to tell me.

"There was this man who came in yesterday," she says. "He pulled out a dirty, old cup and when I didn’t give him the refill, he started yelling at me."

"Was he blond?" I ask her.


"Well, what did he say?"

She rolls her eyes.

"He said, ‘Go to hell, you fucking wetback!"

I snort. ¶

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