Written by Nandini Sethi
The barista at the local coffee shop always gives me a complimentary cookie along with my regular order. With two choco chips he makes round eyes and with the remaining a huge smile. No matter how horrible a morning I am having, the sight of the smiley cookie always brings a smile to his face, and mine.
Even today, as I stood at the counter, paying for my coffee, I wondered where he was since his early morning shift had already begun. Or so I assumed. I pretended like I didn’t need the motivational cookie and swiped my card. But when I collected my coffee to-go, I found the smiley cookie on a tissue, glaring at me, almost wishing me luck for a long day ahead. I looked up to see him standing at the door to the kitchen, smiling and waving at me gently. I waved back.
The morning rush at work was always more than I bargained for. By lunch, I didn’t remember most of where the morning went – all passing by in hazy blurs of calls, meetings, graphs, and statistics. It was only when my stomach made a loud rumble that my desk partner, Rohan, asked me to take a break and prompted me by promising a free lunch.
“Any suggestions?” He asked. I could only come up with one option – the local coffee shop. I didn’t go there often for lunch or any other meals apart from my coffees, but I was pretty sure they served sandwiches and wraps.
We seated ourselves in the far corner, by the window, and delved straight into our usual conversations about work, family, food, and the lot. Once the food came, I couldn’t help but look out for my favourite barista, wondering if he was still at work. I did spot him, giving him a little wave, but all I got in return was a haphazard smile. I frowned.
“What? Is that your boyfriend?” Rohan asked. I scoffed, “no, just a guy who gives me a cookie every morning.”
Rohan looked back, trying to be as sly as possible, turning again to face me, “he probably thinks you’re on a date.”
Huh. He was right. Anyone could assume this was a date, but I didn’t know how to tell him that we were just two co-workers out for lunch. I decided to bring it up the next morning, letting it go for now, and waited patiently for the bill to arrive. But when the bill did come, there was no cookie in sight, and no barista to be found anywhere.
I decided to not let it affect me. I pretended not to care.
But when the next morning the cute barista handed me my coffee without a smile or a goodie, I couldn’t deny I was more upset than I could have imagined.
I went to work with a frown on my face, wondering why today’s morning rush seemed quieter and lonelier all of a sudden. I knew the answer. I just didn’t like what it was.
The following week, I received the same service – no cookie, no waves, and no smiles. I was just another customer now, and I even contemplated switching coffee shops because I didn’t like to see cute barista treat me so coldly.
But when the following week Rohan suggested we visit the same café, I couldn’t help but agree. We ordered our usuals and once again dove straight into our regular conversations. Out of the blue, Rohan began to scream at me, “How could you do such a thing! Don’t you realize what that makes me look like!?”
I was taken aback. Where was this coming from? “Rohan, what are you talking about?”
“No, just shut up! I’ve had enough! You obviously come in here for a reason! This,” he pointed towards me and him, “is over.” And with that, he stormed off.
I was so flabbergasted; I didn’t move for a whole minute. Confused and slightly humiliated, I paid the bill and got out of there. When I reached office, I went up to Rohan and continued our fight, “what is wrong with you?!”
“You’re welcome,” he said.
“You should have seen the way your boyfriend was staring at our table,” Rohan explained, “it looked like he was over the moon.”
“Wha- I…”, I didn’t know what to say, “ugh! Whatever,” I said and walked out. I came back, grabbed my things, and walked out angrier.
When I went home that night, I wondered what this meant. I decided to pay my coffee shop one last visit and promised myself I would find a new place if things didn’t go according to what I hoped.
I was awake before my alarm for the first time, getting ready for work, applying an extra coat of lipstick, and putting on a higher pair of heels, just to make sure. I opened the door to the café, praying a silent prayer, feeling hopeful but still nervous at how the barista was going to react.
When I ordered my coffee, narrating the same item on autopilot, I looked around, left and right, even backwards, for him. Sighing in defeat, I collected my coffee, turning around to leave in a hurry. But before I could walk off, I felt something warm on my hand – something familiar. I came face to face with the cute barista, who after what seemed like an eternity, was smiling at me with stars in his eyes. I didn’t realize when I started smiling myself. It felt like a scene right out of a movie.
“Here”, he said, wrapping up a big cookie, still warm and gooey from the oven, in a napkin, sealing with a smidge of tape and a little kiss. And for the first time, I did something I never thought I would – I asked him for his name.