Today, I was in a Starbucks in Town Square, which is a 2 minutes walk from my apartment. Though not spacious, the coffee store — a part of a high-rise — sits on the first level in a corner by the Hudson River, and has a restroom that remains open to all. Restroom only for Customers is absent here, unlike in most other coffee chains. So, people frequent, sometimes in hordes, if not for coffee then to relieve themselves.
As I’ve been frequenting this and two other Starbucks coffeehouses – both 5 minutes away in opposite directions – this remains my first stop for the stimulant, where my favorite spot inside is a corner at the far end of the store.
So after I bought coffee in my tumbler, I hastened, walking straight a few steps before peeking at my right to see if the brown chair and table at the far corner was occupied. Luckily not, so my laptop was to be in the esteemed company of the power socket and WiFi.
When I sit in this corner, I see: to my left is the restroom – the second most frequented space in the store – and I watch people walk toward me and turn so they wait in line if the restroom is occupied; the bottom half of the wall lining the length of the passage is wooded and it matches the brown hue of the chairs and desks; the top half is an off-white coat suggesting completeness, while the ceiling – an unadorned stretch of pipes and cables – infuses an ambiance of rawness. Next to the restroom is the Employees Only room, where stocks of beans, muffins, croissant, cheese danish sit fresh on iron shelves; and though the room stays locked unfortunately, the employees go in to also change their dress when their shift is over.
The more professional they look wearing green over black with a Starbucks cap crowning their pride, the more casual they step out of the room and sashay around when it’s time to head home. Men and women, young or old, wear ganjis and shorts, on several occasions than more — when, in the dying weeks of summer the weather’s skin-friendly and women, in particular, look hot and glamorous; to the extent that I remember a girl who had an extreme makeover and I called her, in my mind, Skimpy Dudette; and who would, I had seen, welcome customers with a “Hello Sir,” but wear casuals and she’d shoot “Cya Dude” if somebody said bye.
And I’ve reckoned that like the restroom instruction Employees must wash their hands … , their might be a stockroom instruction too, that Nobody must slide a pound cake into their shorts.
To my right is the big stained window, which frames the picturesque view of downtown Manhattan and the part of the Hudson River where rich people dock their yachts.
I was sipping coffee and staring at the screen of my computer when I watched the dying rays of the setting sun, almost dead in their reflections off the mast of a yacht – a three level luxury – docked very close to the window. The ripples on the river, serenely pallid under dock lights, moved in the direction of the sun, which, now devoid of its rays, must look magical.
I glanced at the bottom of the yacht and saw a head pop out of the first level; a yacht cleaner he was in a white V neck and yellow pajamas, with a piece of cloth in each hand, which he replaced with a muffin in his left and coffee in his right. His Starbucks cup made me think weirdly as to when he’d come to the store to buy the beverage since it would’ve taken him 10 minutes of a U-turn walk from where he was to the paying counter in the store. However, if I could open the window that Hurricane Sandy couldn’t break, he could walk in to the store in 10 seconds. He shifted his half-eaten muffin to his right hand, holding it along with his coffee, leaving his left to wave at me. Why, I thought.
I was certain that his gaze locked mine, and his hollow cheeks and wrinkled forehead suggested he might be in some discomfort: an urge, I thought; an urge to relieve, to be precise.
His right hand was free now but he used it to grip the pole of the US flag tied to a railing, in an army posture – as though only he could negate an unexpected drone attack – while his left hand continued to beckon to me. His urge suddenly seemed to purge, and he jumped, and stood motionless too, making me curse the insensitive yacht owner who probably locked the restroom in the yacht, so poor souls like him disobeyed the nature’s call. What world are we living in?
I was helpless, but soon he wasn’t, and his face glowed under the orange sky, and his smile appeared to grow into muffled laughter, and he blew me a kiss – which I straightaway rejected – and when he blew me another, I thought enough was enough. But when I watched him closely through the blurriness of my contact lens, I learned that his gaze, its line of sight, was angled a few inches away from me, in fact over my head, to a target perhaps to my left. Just then Stevie Wonder crooned I Believe on the jukebox, and I turned my head to my left, and there she stood right outside the stockroom, blowing kisses back, which again went over my head, and I rejected them too.
But when Skimpy Dudette smiled at me with a compassion that I’d made a fool of myself, I decided to look mature, and when I opened my eyes wide after a few blinks, she had disappeared, with a pound cake perhaps, for the lover, who was also not there, anymore.