a single shot, because a double would be too overwhelming. carefully steamed milk. poured gently into the paper cup, just a little short of a cappuccino. a drizzle, a stroke and a lift. a secret smile before the plastic cover goes on. an utterance of gratitude…then she was gone.
the second cutest waiter took my order that day. he had a shock of curly hair and a gap between his front teeth, which he displayed with pride when he handed me my change. i sat in front of the monster of a coffee machine on the counter and watched the designated barista make my flat white to go. he ground the (sumatran) beans, popped the resulting powder into the contraption, prepared the dairy component, then slowly assembled the drink before my eyes.
the whole time, i composed a story about a boy makes coffee for a regular at his cafe, a girl who first caught his attention with her cheerful demeanor whether he encounters her behind the cashier or as he hands her her order: flat white, no sugar. there was a time when she’d sit and read – one day ishiguro, another day rilke – but recently she’s kept her visits short. he missed handing her a ceramic cup instead of a paper one. he missed the smile on her face each time she saw the design etched into the frothed milk, the twinkle in her eye as she thanked him for the coffee.
he wanted to say more than “would you like to make that a double?” whenever she stepped into the store, but his courage failed him time and again. so as an outlet for his affections he laced her takeaways with latte art, drawn with the same precision required for display. hearts, ferns, animal faces, but mostly hearts. each one hidden by a plastic cover, unnoticed. until one day…
“here you go.”
my thoughts were interrupted by the barista who created my cup of coffee. he walked over to deliver my order. to my surprise it was left open, the cover by its side, to reveal the design on top.
it was a heart.