Starbucks, Three Ways

Iced Grande Non-Fat Chai Latte

I did it!  I ran every day for one week.  I finally met my five-mile goal.

I momentarily feel nostalgic for my whole-milk days, and I’m tempted to throw caution to the wind.

No, the 60 extra calories defeat the purpose of getting up at 6 am to run to five miles.  No need to sabotage my accomplishment.

I look around, serenely, still high from the run.  The line is long, but I’m grateful to catch my breath.  Damp spandex clings to my thighs.  I run my fingers through my sweaty hair and casually check to see if my deodorant has withstood the strain.

Maybe I’ll finally have the courage to ask him…

Unlikely.

I’ve been sculpting and shaping and agonizing over self-denial just to impress him by becoming aesthetically pleasing.

Although she told me he found me attractive when…

There’s a difference between fantasy and reality.  She only wanted to get a chubby girl’s self-esteem up.

The line is shorter now, so I feel less guilty chatting up my buddy who spent several months in the peace corps.  We’ve broken the barrier between customer and barista.  I get the genuine smiles.  The genuine chitchat.

“Iced Grande Non-Fat Chai,” I say, emphasizing the “non-fat” with some pride.  He writes my name on the cup, and we exchange pleasant goodbyes.

I’m ready for the next big step.

I practiced for the interview for the past two weeks.  I know all about the school and the program.  I’ve rehearsed answers to the questions I imagine the dean will ask.

They call my name, and I head out the door, slowly sipping my chai latte.

I imagine how much more appealing I’ll be with a “Dr.” before my name.

*****

Venti Red-Eye

The line winds around the tables.  I impatiently check my email.

Why do I stand in this long line day after day?

I don’t know why I thought marriage was a good idea for an already rocky relationship.

Is the person at the front of the line ordering for an army?!

I want the condo in the old, drafty house.  She’s done with the oil heat, the unmanageable dust bunnies, and the way the house swayed in strong winds.

She gets the stupid yippy dog.  I’m happy to see the little bastard go.  I’m done with the shredded shoes, the puddles in corners, and the incessant barking.

Recharging the card now?!  Really?!

I need us to come to a settlement.  I need this limbo to end.

Enough with the chitchat already!  Order your coffee and go!

“Venti red-eye with the bold pick of the day,” I bark when I finally reach the head of the line.

“We’re almost done brewing a fresh batch,” the manager tells me.  “Do you mind waiting a few minutes?”

Fuck yes I mind!

I give him a tense smile and nod.

I used to say please and thank you.  When did I become this?  How did I become this?

I ventured into the world previously monopolized by breeders, and this is how I got burned.

I tap my feet and fidget impatiently as I watch the long line of hot and cold cups on the counter.  The line has shorted exponentially since I stood in it.

I sigh and run my hands through my short, dark hair.

I check my phone again.

“I’m sorry it’s gone this far,” the surprising email reads.  “I want to try again.”

I hit “delete” just as they call my name.

*****

Tall Decaf Iced Coffee

I run my hand over my belly, which is just beginning to show.  I can’t stand the smell of coffee anymore, but I need that connection to normalcy.

I watch the table where I left my black and white composition notebook.

Everyone wonders why I’m tackling something this big alone.

I grew up here.  I wrote my way through two office jobs and four relationships.  I wrote myself through the decision to forge ahead without a partner.

I imagine continuing to grow here.  I imagine what it will feel like to put a decaf coffee in the cup holder of a stroller.  To clutch a red-eye in one hand while holding a squirming toddler on my hip.  To relax over a latte and share a cookie with my preschooler.  To enjoy my mocha while my school-aged child enjoys her hot chocolate as we read our own chapter books.  To share a decaf coffee with my young teen who is determined to claim her independence.  To hesitantly enjoy a caffeinated coffee with my senior in high school as she prepares for her first college interview.  To share a non-fat chai latte on the morning of my young adult’s wedding.  To share a cup of decaf coffee as she sits across from me, her belly round with a new member of the next generation.

“Tall Decaf Iced Coffee,” I say, taking a deep breath to fight nausea.

No, I’m not alone.  I won’t be alone for a very long time.

(written 10/14/2013)

About Jennifer

Middle-aged working mother of a toddler. Also a Barefoot Books Ambassador and OBC certified teacher. Prone to cooking, ranting, fiction writing, and musing.
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