November 21st, 2000 by Clark Humphrey

WE RETURN TODAY to our fictional little local indie coffeeshop, where Kirsten the sullen barista is starting her shift and facing a dilemma.

In most customer-service workplaces, she would have had to be perky and upbeat even when she felt the complete opposite. (In fact, she came to this coffeeshop specifically because it was the first place she went to while job-seeking that didn’t have a sign outside saying “Now Hiring Smiling Faces.”)

But today, she’s happy. Happy in spirit, mind, and almost every inch of her body except her stiff lower back.

Yes, Kirsten got laid last night. More importantly, she managed for the first time this year to get laid without waking up hating either the guy or herself. No self-incriminating thoughts flow through her mind. No hangover pierces her skull.

She doesn’t know if she’s ever going to see the guy again (it was one of those happenstance meetings of complicated and unrepeatable circumstances). She does know that she doesn’t want to ruin her momentary good feelings by having to intellectualize them, to turn them into verbal left-brain junk like a bad review of great music.

Which is what she’d have to do if she had to discuss the night to any of her regular customers. Especially the ever-nosy mother and daughter punks, Janis and Anais, who always show up after Anais gets out of school and who always want to know everything about Kirsten’s life.

So, today Kirsten has resolved to look, talk, walk, otherwise behave like the comfortably depressed woman she usually is, instead of the giddy-in-love post-teenager she currently is. To keep a poker face, she puns to herself, after poking a really cute guy.

For most of her shift, it works. At least, if anyone notices any difference, they don’t tell her. She shuffles instead of skips. She keeps her shoulders hunched. She darts her face aside and avoids eye contact just like usual.

But the big test, she knows, will come at 3:47, when Janis and Anais show up. She perfectly goes through her expected mope-along routine whilst serving them. It works perfectly. Janis and Anais sip their respective drinks, munch on their respective pastries, chat their normal chat about Anais’s homework and Janis’s bullying bosses and which girls in Anais’s school are probably into bulimia, apparently not taking any more notice of Kirsten than usual.

Kirsten’s about to silently sigh relief as Janis and Anais leave the cafe. Just outside, Anais asks if she can go back and get a cookie to go. Janis nods yes, as Kirsten watches from inside the front window.

Anais’s heavily mascarad eyes light up as she approaches the counter. Before she’s finished grabbing the giant sugar cookie and dropping the cash on the counter, she grinningly reveals that she and her mom could both tell Kirsten was acting too deliberately normal. Then Anais goes into the kind of girls’-locker-room gossip spiel Kirsten always hated as a teenager.

Who is he how tall is he how “big” is he does he have a car did you come did you have to suck him how did you meet where did you do it are you going to see him again?

It’s over; the subterfuge is lost. Kirsten instantly relaxes herself from the full-body tension she’s been walking with all day. But the instant after Kirsten realizes the game is over, she also realizes she’d used the game as an extension of her previous night’s experiences. Now her sex-adventure really is in the past.

For the first time all day, Kirsten becomes actually despondent. Her put-on blank stare dissolves into a real blank stare.

TOMORROW: The big newspaper strike.


Leave a Reply

XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

»  Substance:WordPress   »  Style:Ahren Ahimsa
© Copyright 1986-2022 Clark Humphrey (clark (at) miscmedia (dotcom)).