by Autumn Carter
How many coffee shop clichés does it take
to understand the delicious power of bitter liquid
energy going cold in front of a myriad of caffeine
In the center of the air-blasted room, at the tallest,
wobbly table, in an obvious sea of crop tops and
Miss Me jeans, are the riotous teens begging both strangers
and peers alike to notice how grownup they are drinking
their java chip frappes, as they stuff a strawberry cake pop
inside their North Face backpack for later.
They are exhausted from zoning out for seven hours,
and need a pick-me-up before their four hour shift
at Applebee’s and the two page paper they still haven’t
written. So full of their own autonomy
and self-worth, they don’t even realize that they are
being mocked rather than admired.
Too busy to notice, a topknot rifles through her
Michael Kors wallet, grabs an American Express card,
and orders a Chai Tea to go.
No receipt, please.
Just a sleeve and a lid, thank you.
Voice crisp, thin, over-assertive, as she tries to own her
suite. If only it didn’t wreak of Tide-to-Go and dry
shampoo, a desperate attempt to look clean and pressed
and dressed to impress.
Too tight stilettos click,
out the door.
Right past the young man alternatively pouring and
snoozing through Taming of the Shrew. Nine years
of faithful child support checks from Dad, only for Mom
to decide she didn’t feel like paying the other half of his
tuition. So he slugs through four eight A.M. classes a week,
and manages double shifts all weekend just to earn a piece of
paper that says he has measured up.
To the left is a group of Tom’s wearing, Kindle
carrying peace-seekers, striving for a unique image
in a blur of taupe, engrossed in a whirlwind debate of
Apple vs. Droid; a self-righteous army chanting the merits
of going green and free-trade coffee beans as they exude the
traitorous, sour perfume from the box of Swisher Sweets they
inhaled in their Prius on the way.
So where are you? The med student off a ghost shift
chugging the seventh espresso in twelve hours just to make
it safely home to bed? The single mother treating herself to a
mocha latte, ignoring the scornful stairs as she lets her wailing
toddler try just a sip, if he’ll behave? The drooling
couple passing napkins riddled with promises of forever across
the table, oblivious to the irony of dreaming on recycled paper?
The underpaid, undeterred barista biting his lip as he concocts
latte art for the weary, feeling the weight of responsibility to
stimulate the world?
Clichés upon clichés, and yet, we still can’t
digest the truth fast enough
before it goes cold.