Shift (3/4)

Coffee and conversations. Laughs and tears. I access human interaction, while wiping down drink stains, crumbs, and fingerprints. I also have access to many cups of cold beverages. I dispose of them in bins, standing around the perimeter of the shop, which everyone can access themselves.

….‘Maybe we are technology. We’re machinery of a different kind, made of organic matter rather than plastic and motherboards.’  The students pack their books into their bags, and get up to leave. Thankfully, they put their cups into the bin. I wipe the spot they sat in, next to the window.

….A man, one of the regulars, possibly a writer, sits further along the window table, reading through his scribbles in a brown book. Our eyes meet momentarily, then he continues to read the hieroglyphics. I could be the next major character in his work. Several customers sit alone, reading novels or typing into their tablets, sipping away at their coffee.

….I go over to the area where the clean napkins and packs of sugar are stacked. Crystalline granules create a constellation on the wooden surface, before my cloth swoops down to destroy it.    

….Two women sit close by, a younger one and an older one.

….‘This is serious. How do you think it’ll go?’ says the older woman.

….‘Well, it’s in an hour. I just hope it all works out.’ The younger woman clasps her fingers around her cup, like a clamshell.

….I get some more napkins out of the cupboard below, and refill the holder.

….‘I’m sure it will. You’ve dressed well for it. Everything starts with appearances.’

….‘What if it’s a no? No one can help if it’s a no. It’ll be over. Not even my good shoes will save me, despite what people say.’ The younger woman closes her eyes and begins to take some deep breaths for a few seconds.

….The older woman looks around, probably checking if anyone is listening. She sees me. ‘Could I get one of those, please?’ she asks. I smile, handing her a napkin. She turns back to the other woman. ‘Dear, you’re being a little dramatic now.’

….The younger woman becomes quiet, probably on the verge of tears. Talk about coffee shop drama. She picks up her handbag, and gets up. ‘I think it’s time I made my way there,’ she says.

….The older woman sits there, drinking the rest of her coffee. The other woman left her cup on the table.

 ….Someone taps me on the shoulder. I turn around. It’s Thomas. He flashes a grin at me. ‘Are you going to stand there all day, gaping at stupid packets of sugar?’

….‘Hello to you, too. I wasn’t gaping.’

….‘Honey, you should just work here full-time and you can stare at all the sugar you want,’ he teases.

….I take my apron off, and get my jacket from the back. I say bye to everyone still working their shifts. I make my way to the door, grabbing the cup left behind by the woman and throw it away.

….As I walk away from the shop, I see the younger woman waiting at the bus stop, on the other side of the road. I continue walking, another stranger on the street.

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