She’s very mousy looking with thin hair cut short just below her ears
and every time I come in she’s the first to say hello to me,
like she has a sixth sense about my arrival times
as random as they are. I order the usual
—coffee in a mug with room—
and she’s awkward and asks me
how my week’s been and I always reply the same: “It’s okay.”
I never ask about hers and by the time my computer is out
and I have my headphones on listening to whatever
she’s always spying on me from behind the coffee machinery
handing out elementary school-style smiles and giggles like
I’m the first man she’s ever had a crush on.

Then one day I’m busy working and I see her
snaking toward me. She sidles up next to me and
makes a motion for me to remove my headphones which
annoys me and when I do she’s asking me how I am…again.
“I’m fine,” I say.
“Good,” she says. “So, I was wondering, do you
want to hang out sometime?”
And my face goes white. I look around and the patrons at
the tables next to me are snickering and whispering and
I try to be as nice as possible and say
“I’m sorry, but I have a girlfriend” even though I don’t.
“Oh, well, we could still hang out,” she says whimpering, pleading.
“Probably wouldn’t be a good idea,” I say. “Not fair to…her.”
“Oh, okay,” she says and smiles one last time a pathetic sort of smile
then disappears behind the counter.

The next week I come in and expect the worse
but she’s not working and I feel a bit relieved.
And a few more weeks go by and she’s never working
on the days I come in and out of curiosity I ask another barista
what happened to her.
“Oh, she transferred stores,” she says and I sit down
and take a sip of my coffee.

~ by yearzerowriters on September 27, 2010.


  1. […] Check it out here. […]

  2. Really sad & awkward piece – with big reverb.

  3. Clean and hard. You’ve captured so much about him, and her, in so few words. Really like it.

  4. I really like this. I love crushes on strangers!

    People invent such stories for themselves. I have done it myself a thousand times but rarely have the gumption to ask the person out.

    My favourite was I was signing on for the dole and the clerk who dealt with my case followed me outside and asked me on a date. I said ‘no, I have a boyfriend’…

  5. […] the original: THIS ONE BARISTA AT CARIBOU COFFEE « Year Zero Writers Share and […]

  6. Ha, nice. I think, which is where this came from (it is spurned from a real incident, though), is that almost all of us have been on both sides of this before, you know?

  7. yes and it can be equally excruciating on both sides, but also life-affirming. If nobody every noticed us that would just be sad.

  8. you do a wonderful line in misanthrope/misogynists (I can never quite tell whether they’re misogynists or just anti-social bastards). I think I’d end after “sip of coffee” – it’s more powerful without the self-awareness which feels like it might be an explanation for our benefit, just in case we didn’t get it

  9. It doesn’t read as misogyny to me at all or even anti-social. It’s just unreciprocated desire in my eyes. I was wondering if the girl had died/killed herself or something at one point, which would have darkened the tale somewhat…

  10. Firstly I agree with Dan, I don’t think you need that last line. Though I’m an out and out misanthrope, I didn’t see him as behaving all that cruelly at all. He just wasn’t all that into her. If I had headphones plugged into my computer, I think that makes it clear I’m working and probably wouldn’t want to be disturbed by a relative stranger with whom I’d not yet struck up any sort of intimacy. Mind you, having said that, I totally unsderstand she’s had to really get all herself together to pop the question so it has to be today or her resolve with evaporate, so the fact that he’s blocked himself off behind headphones can’t be allowed to get in the way. That’s why I think you’ve really nailed the dynamics on both sides here.

    Anyone who asks if you want to ‘hang out’ deserves no for an answer. What are they, orbiting space stations? See, told you I was a misanthrope…

  11. Good stuff. Unrequited desire is a fun subject, especially considering how poor people are at it. Poor girl, she could have got him if she wasn’t such an awkward wallflower. Hell, her clumsy approach may have worked if she wasn’t so bland. Ask him to go the zoo to see the monkey cage. Say “so are you actually doing work on that thing or just looking at porn?” That would totally work on this guy.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: