Gavin Killam gripped the little slip of paper tightly in his fist. Maybe too tightly, he thought for a moment. He didn’t want the ink to smudge from his sweat. He loosened his grip, then thought better of it, and shoved the paper into his jean pocket.
The number on that little sheet, just a corner from a newspaper, was very important. It was probably the most important piece of information to ever pass from one human to another.
The barista’s phone number! He had finally worked up the nerve to say more to her than, “Grande non-fat Macchiato.”
It wasn’t easy. It took nerves of steel. And a bottle of Killian’s Irish Red at the bar down the street. But he’d done it.
“Good evening,” he said, very cleverly as he approached the counter. She ran her fingers through the hair that drapped across the right side of her head, the left side was buzzed with military precision, and responded with a very telling, “‘sup?”
‘Sup! They carried such weight, those three letters. She could’ve stuck with the barista script, and simply asked him his order, but she said, “‘Sup?”
Gavin hadn’t planned for that eventuallity. It left him stunned, stammering, and struggling to come up with a witty retort. He found it in, “Not a damn thing.”
She smiled and took his order, then she took his cash. Their finger tips touched, and he could’ve sworn that she held the contact longer than necessary. Another very good sign.
There was no line behind him, so he felt confident in taking his time. Ease into the seduction, Gavin. “So…what’s up with you?”
He was proud of that, it kept the conversation going. “I’m making your coffee.”
This time she was deadfaced. No smile, no twinkle in her greenish eyes, no flare of her small, pierced nose. Undaunted, he carried on.
“Did you hear about Letterman?”
“Did he die?” She moved to her left, gathering the ingredients for his beverage.
“No, no, he’s retiring next year.”
And this is where he could feel it all coming apart. Gavin had not contemplated a point in the conversation where he’d lose her interest. There was no plan for this. Of course, that didn’t mean he was going to back down. The Killams where not quitters! So he leaped into the abyss of the unknown.
“What time do you get off?”
“I want to buy you a drink.”
Another smile, and flushed cheeks.
“I have classes in the morning, but tomorrow night I would love to.”
She reached across the counter, grabbing at a newspaper some careless patron had left lying there. She was close enough to smell. Coffee, sweat, too-sweet perfume. Those were the scents of the barista. She tore a corner of the newspaper off and jotted down her phone number. Her fingers, long and cold, reached out for his hand and placed the paper in his palm.
“Don’t lose that. Call me tomorrow afternoon, we’ll figure something out.”
“Great, talk to you soon.” He said, with charm. He had come out a winner, and turned to make his exit.
“Hey, wait!” She called to him, missed him already.
“You forgot your drink.”
He was barely through the door of his apartment before he began to dig the slip of paper out of his pocket. He held it for a moment, reverentially, the unfolded it like a spoiled child on Christmas.
He read her number out loud to the empty rooms. “9-3-6-4-4-2.”
Then he read them again.
And then he realized, it was time to find a new coffee shop.