We’re in my kitchen; it's winter, but I pretend otherwise. Brian idles in his worn, grey briefs while I myself am made of flowers, wrapped in a short, floral silk robe usually left languid on my desk chair. Without his typical uniform of jean jacket and black skinny jeans, without his glasses, Brian and I are strangers.
He’s the trainer at my former barista job. This is how we met: behind the espresso machine where he taught me to taste the subtle notes, watching grounds drip mahogany, pouring milk-shapes that mostly turned out phallic until I could make them flower—perhaps premonition.
In the beginning we said this was casual but I am still waiting for it to feel that way.
He reaches for the Chemex with that endearing enthusiasm which drew me to him in the first place, like he’s always drinking coffee even when he’s not. “I can make the coffee while you shower, if you’d like?” he says. Does he not trust me to make it well, or is he just trying to be nice? I’m not ready for him to see that I just make it up as I go, even though I’ve seen him do the exact same in his kitchen.
I distract us both with a presentation. I take out every mug in my cupboard and line them up on my kitchen island, as if it’s a runway. He leans against the counter with his arms crossed, watching, amused, knuckling his sleepy eyes.
“Do you want…the bicycle carrying flowers?” My hands like Vanna White’s, all open palms. His jaw drops, a slight gasp; he loves to play along.
I want him to leave flowers on my bike, stems tucked gently in the saddle’s hole. I want a performance.
“Or do you want the Nagel mug?” A feminine portrait with dark shades, a sharp, chiseled jaw, I’d bet she’s a Leo. There are only eight mugs but I want the possibilities to appear endless.
“Moo-sical cows?” A lively orchestra of cowboys and livestock, fiddles and banjos.
At my old job I’d imagine minor malfunctions in our machinery, manifest whole café shut-downs to sooner conjure his appearance. In reality, malfunctions were minor fixes. I’d stop in the middle of cleaning something to inquire about his band, his travels, while he tightened gaskets with a tiny screwdriver. I wanted to be that person; to know how to take things apart and put them back together.
“Wow,” he says, “so many choices!” He pecks my cheek, then leans against the counter, waiting.
I leave him to it, kettle boiling, and hop in the shower. I watch the familiar splotches form bright red on my skin and contemplate the patterns; my history of letting others make the coffee.
I slip back into silk roses and marigolds like he won’t be leaving soon as the sound of his belt buckle shakes and closes in my bedroom.
Coffee ready, he reaches for moo-sical cows with both hands, like it might escape if he lets it.
An easy, “safe” choice, it is playful; silent.
Lily Blackburn is an editor for Typehouse Literary Magazine and a barista. She studied creative non-fiction writing and English at Portland State University and graduated in 2017. You can find her work at Little Fictions | Big Truths and Night Music Journal. She’s from Humboldt County, California and currently lives in Portland, Oregon with her cat, Binx. www.lilyblackburn.com