The Hot Cup
A caramel aroma flows from my cup of hot coffee. I’m tempted to pick it up and sip, but I leave it alone. If I grab the cup, it’ll burn my hand and I may suddenly drop it.
This café is crowded for a Sunday morning. I focus on a woman at one of the tables, as she wears earphones and types rapidly on a laptop. I also notice a kissing couple, who probably haven’t noticed that their scoops of ice cream, which rest in plastic bowls and were obviously purchased elsewhere, already melted. Behind me are at least thirty people. Their volume goes through a strange cycle. They chortle and someone’s hand smacks the table. A soft voice speaks. Then their noise returns.
But there’s no sign of Joey — the guy Madison told me about, the guy I’m supposed to see, the guy who might be late.
Minutes pass. My fingers tap the table. If I’m not staring at my coffee cup I’m looking around. No person who resembles Joey shows up. I’m starting to wonder if I’ve been stupid by believing a blind date would go as planned.
But I’m not late. Joey’s probably running late. We’re supposed to meet at 11:30, so I decide to call and — no. I don’t have Joey’s number. I call Madison instead.
“Do you know where he is?” I ask.
“Why do you think I know?” Madison responds. “He’s not with you?”
I hang up and sigh.
I turn to the clock, reading 11:26. Assuming the coffee’s cooler, I grab the cup and sip. But I cough it out. I take a napkin and press it against my lips, moaning over my burning mouth.
This has to cool off! I think.
I wrap several napkins around the cup so I can grab it painlessly. Then I step away from the table to see the cashier.
“Can I have a cup of ice?” I ask.
The cashier presses a few buttons on the register. “Ninety-seven cents.”
As I pull out my wallet, I hear a conversation between two loud employees. But I can’t see them. One of them has a lighthearted voice, as if he’s singing his thanks for what may be coming. Perhaps his life will stray from the typical and be like a dream.
“Ma’am?” The cashier offers me the cup of ice.
I hand the cashier a dollar and leave with both cups. Stopping at a small table, I drop three ice cubes into the cup of coffee. I approach the exit and hear those employees’ voices again.
“Yeah. I’ll be seeing this girl Madison told me about,” replies the employee with the happy voice.
“Ooh!” the other one yells. “Joey, that’s good!”
Is that Joey?
Maybe I’m just hoping that’s the same Joey.
I sip my coffee. It’s hot, but tolerably hot. I grab my phone and text Madison, should i head home? hes nowhere! ill sit in the car for a bit.
As I enter the car and drink more coffee, I’m confused. Since I couldn’t even see the guy, am I sure I want to leave without figuring out if he’s the Joey?
But he said he’ll see someone Madison told him about. So that could be Joey.
I jumped outside and slammed the door after myself, sprinting back into the café. My fist bangs the women’s restroom’s door, and a voice responds and reverberates. I groan. I turn to the unisex restroom. It’s available, so I enter and face the mirror.
At first my eyes focus on different sections of my face. The rust-colored lipstick, the peach blush, and the brown eyeshadow seem to work well. Then I turn to my shoulder-length hair, which runs straight and shimmers against the lights. I step back and tell myself I’m fine, that I’m more than ready to see him.
I leave the restroom and spot a tall guy with black hair and tan skin — Joey. He’s sitting by the entrance and looking at his phone, probably checking messages. When he looks up, he notices me and grins. I approach him.
“Hey,” I say. “You’re Joey, right? Madison told me to wait here, but I didn’t see you.”
“Yeah,” Joey replies. “Had to finish my shift a little later, but now I’m here. Anyway, do you wanna go somewhere else? I’ve heard good things about one sushi restaurant downtown.”
I nod, telling myself to turn on my GPS when I return to my car. “Sure. Let’s go.”
So, side by side, we go to the parking lot. Then we split up to approach our cars. Before I enter mine, I turn to Joey. His soft eyes look back at mine, while I spend a moment focusing on his smile.