“I know where you live.”
I stop mid pour. The rich smell reaches my nose and it’s glorious, despite not being able to stomach the stuff.
“I don’t think you do.” I say calmly, tipping the pot once again. Little coffee bubbles dance on the old Formica countertop.
“I do,” he says. “Saw you outside the Laundromat last week. You were driving that old green wagon.”
He takes a sip and closes his eyes as if it’s the best thing he’s ever tasted. His lips pull into a wide, flat line.
“Yeah, well I don’t live at the Laundromat.” I joke.
It’s the simple things, isn’t it?” He sighs. “Coffee, black and hot. Cures whatever ails.”
“I don’t drink it,” I tell him. “But I imagine if I did, I’d be dousing it with cream and sugar.”
“Nah, that stuff just smothers the quality of the bean. I like to know what I’m drinking.” His eyes are still closed but they open when he asks; “How in the world can you work in a diner and not drink coffee?”
“Love the smell, can’t stand the taste.”
“Ah, it can be a cruel, cruel world.” He nods and smiles a little wider, exposing surprisingly white teeth from behind his reed-thin lips.
Slamming my chit on the spike, I grab his order from under the warmer and set it in front of him. Two eggs, sunny side up, extra crispy bacon and sourdough toast, lightly buttered.
“How long you had that car?” He asks.
As he snaps off a piece of bacon and dips it in the ketchup he’s squirted on the edge of the plate, I can’t help but wonder where his sense of quality is now.
“Four years,” I answer. “My Grandma left it to me.”
The dark moons under his nails loosely string each finger together like a black crepe streamer and his clothes are on the worn side of things, much like his skin, supple and weathered.
“Ah, a treasure then. It’s a ’73, isn’t it?”
“Yeah, how did you…?”
“Lucky guess,” he says. “We used to have one back in the day. I learned to drive in it.” He chuckles. “Showing my age now, I suppose.”
“More?” I hold the pot over his almost empty cup.
He nods. I pour.
Despite his ruffled appearance, I can smell fresh shampoo and sharp aftershave as I lean in to wipe up the drips.
“It was a guilt gift,” I confess. “She wanted nothing to do with me. The car made her feel better.”
“Did it make you feel better?”
“Probably not for the right reasons,” I admit. “It’s the only thing I own. It’s more important than it should be now.”
“I’ll take it off your hands.” He offers and slides his business card across the counter. It claims he’s the owner of the Green Bean Organic Coffee Plant. The same coffee we use in the diner.
“I can’t. I still need it.”
“If you didn’t have it, where would you be?”
“Um, taking the bus?” My eyes shift.
“Sometimes it’s good to rid yourself of things that are holding you back.”
“I told you, I still need it.” I look away. “Why are you so hot for my car anyway?
“I could say it’s because it’s green. Or because, like I said, I learned to drive in that very same car.”
He lightly knocks his fist twice on the countertop. “
“But, I’d be lying. It’s because I know where you live.”