I See You

Bill dutifully — nay, eagerly — goes to his boxing class every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I usually go along, but have little- to-no interest in staying for the whole class, especially since he likes to go 45 minutes early to do some basketball exercises with the others in the class. I generally drop him off and do something else.

I have taken to going to a nearby coffee shop that was recommended to me by my niece Josey. She and my sister Bec discovered it recently when Josey’s son Carter was playing soccer very close by. There is a section of central Mesa that is in the midst of being rejuvenated, and the coffee shop is in that area. It’s one of those areas that will soon be offering $25 hamburgers, but right now it requires one to look around carefully before walking from the car to the shop.

Thus far I have visited the coffee shop three times. Two out of the three times, a young woman — maybe early- to mid-20s — has been the barista. I’m an easy customer for any barista, as I want a simple cup of coffee, sometimes iced, sometimes hot. No half-cafs or double squirts or skinny anything. Just a cuppa Joe.

People my age are used to slowly becoming invisible as they age. I live with being nearly invisible. The more people are looking at their phones, the less likely it is that they will notice anyone, much less a nondescript 67-year-old woman who orders a simple cup of coffee.

The barista is an exception to the rule, however. The first day I walked in to the empty shop, she quickly put on her mask when she saw that I was wearing a mask. I ordered my coffee, and she prepared the delicious brew over ice. By that time, I was seated at a table with my iPad set up before me. I told her thank you, and she walked to the end of the bar where she worked on what I’m thinking was her college homework. Who knows? I invent stories about people.

When I was getting ready to leave, she asked me, “Are you reading from your iPad, or just looking at social media?” I told her I was reading. She asked me what book I was reading, and for a bit of time, she and I discussed books. It was such a pleasant feeling to be noticed by a 20-something woman.

Yesterday, she was once again working. I ordered my coffee, this time hot. She made it, brought it to me, and took her place once again at the end of the bar. She and I were both quiet for a while. We were the only two in the place. Finally, she said to me, “I did the stupidest thing yesterday. I was curling my hair with a curling iron, and I set it down right on my leg. It really hurts.”

I have no room for second-guessing how she could have done such a thing, because I do silly things several times a day. I nodded in sympathy.

“What do you think I should do?” she said. “My mom’s a nurse, and I have been trying to reach her, but she’s not answering her telephone.”

I looked around, hoping she was asking someone else because I really suck at anything related to ouchies. Alas, I was still the only one in the room.

“Well,” I said, “I would just clean it really well and bandage it.” (Hell, that sounded reasonable.)

She told me she is from west Texas, and came out here by herself. “I’m doing pretty well,” she said. “But at times like this, I really want my mom.”

I told her that my son had called me during his first semester of college, a few weeks after school had started. He had the stomach flu, and asked me what he should do. Mostly, he admitted, he just wanted to talk to me. Everyone wants their mommy when they don’t feel good.

Her phone rang just then, and she looked at me with a smile. “It’s my mom!”

A few minutes later, she sat down at the end of the bar again. I asked her what her mom had suggested she do about her burn.

“She said to clean it really well, put Neosporin on it, and cover it with a bandage,” the young woman said with a smile. Damn. I forgot the Neosporin.

As I got up to leave, she gave me a cheerful goodbye. “See you in a couple of days,” she said.

I left with a smile as well.

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