Monday, August 6, 2012

Long coffee line

The smells of roasted beans soaked into my hair and clothes like a moist fog in a swamp. I tapped my high heeled shoe on the linoleum floor, painted to look much classier than it was. My toes scraped across the floor, shiny and plastic like Mrs. Johnson my 10th grade English teacher.

I stared at the back of the head of the woman in front of me. She had gray hair up in a short bob. I could see a few inches of wrinkly neck rolling out behind her collar, like folds of dough for an unbaked hairy mole-freckled pie. She half turned, almost as though she felt me staring at her. We both looked down at our watches. I didn't have a watch so I looked at my ipod. My ipod looked back up at me with a snicker at my futile empty existence.

I had been on my ten minute break from work for twelve minutes now and I was still three people from the front of the line. The gentleman at the front of the line was getting four frappucinos which take the longest of anything to make. He watched them blend the coffee with a drooling grin while I crossed my arms and exhaled loudly.

After the frappucino glugger, the woman in front of me went up to order and asked about every question possible about the menu. Her voice was crackly like dead leaves covering the deck at my parent's house.

"What's the difference between a cappucino and a late?" she asked. "Well, what specifically is foam? Oh... Um... What's the difference between a cappucino and a late?"

I rolled my eyes. It's starbucks. How do you not know the menu yet? Like I'm the only one who's parents dropped her off at coffee shops as a child when they couldn't get a baby sitter?

Finally it was my turn at the front of the line. I made eye contact with the barista, who was a bit shorter than me. I spread my legs and centered my weight into my heals so I could stare her dead in the eyes. I said, "May I use your restroom?"

"Sure, the code to get into the door is 1234-"
"My cousin Kelly couldn't make it but he says how's your turnip field," I interrupted abruptly.
"Oh, it's you," said the barista, raising her eyebrows and curling one lip upward. Her voice dropped to a whisper, "The code is 2221."
"Thanks," I chirped.

I typed the code into the bathroom door handle and it beeped twice and then unlocked. I turned the handle and stepped inside, but instead of the mainstream starbucks bathroom I stepped through a trap door that had opened in the floor as a result of my code. The steps lead down into a dark cave. The door slammed shut above me.

Far away a glimmering light cast shadows across the cave wall and dimly lit the pathway. The walls were made of dirt and rock, with bits of roots and worms wriggling out of them. The ground was hard and solid. I folded my arms into each other, hugging my waist, shrinking between the narrow walls. Looking back, the stairs had already disappeared and there was an endless passageway that way as well. I smirked and headed towards the light.

Snakes and rats slithered and scampered respectively across the dirty earth. I took off my high heels and walked barefoot, feeling the cold solid reality beneath my feet. It felt so hard and sturdy. My toes wriggled appreciatively. "Thank you for the authenticity of existence!" yelped my toes. "Shut up, toes," I whispered back.

At the end of the long corridor was a coffin. Or maybe it was a wooden kayak that someone had hinged a lid onto. Regardless, the lid was ajar slightly, revealing a soft cushioning bedding of blankets, snuggling against each other invitingly. A lit lantern hung from the curved ceiling, casting shadows across the cave.

Beyond the coffin kayak, the cave sharpened into a cliff and overlooked a deep underground cavern below. It was so deep that I couldn't see the bottom.

"Hi," said a high pitched nasally voice.
I pivoted around and found myself face to face with a woman in business attire, wearing sensible shoes, her hair in a neat bun, manicured nails, shaved armpits, and normal classy glasses. Despite her cold expression, I could tell exactly who she was.

"Hey," I said. "You look terrible."
"I know," My grown up self responded.
"Are you okay?"
"Um.... I don't... I don't think so?"

As she stuttered this my grown up self's face began to flake in dry tufts. Some of her hair fell out. The shadows beneath her eyes deepened.

"Shit." I took a step toward her.
"No, this is... the way it should be..." Her smile was gentle and reassuring.

She stepped around me, seemingly losing weight and becoming more frail before my eyes. Her knees cracked as she stepped forward. Reflexively, I shoved my arm outward and she leaned on it. She was at least thirty pounds less than me. She used my arm to steady herself as she climbed into the kayak. She lay down in the nest of blankets and rested her head on the fluffy pillow.

"There's no going back if we do this," I said.

She reached up and used the last of her strength to pull the lid over herself. She didn't wave or do anything dramatic. She simply slid the heavy wooden lid into place and she was gone from sight. I sighed and pushed. The coffin tumbled down off the cliff, below the ledge, and toppled down into the cavern. Gradually the dark wood faded into the blackness. The only sense I had that it had been there at all was a far away splash I heard from below. I imagined the kayak floating in a river miles below the earth surface, swinging along to the gentle rocking motion, and her looking up at the pitch darkness, with a relaxed sigh on her lips.

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