I Got This

I spotted Andy and Carol sitting at a table on the patio outside the coffee shop. I walked closer, intending to join them, but stopped when I saw Andy leaning in, his forehead down on his clenched together hands, his glasses sitting in front of him on the table. He appeared to be crying. Carol looked at him without emotion.

I wondered what was going on. I’ve never seen Andy cry. Well, not over a woman. It looked like the cup of coffee in front of him was slightly smaller than Carol’s, which is something that actually would trigger Andy to burst into tears. I figured the difference in cup sizes was an optical illusion – they were the same style cup after all – and Andy’s emotional outburst was caused by Carol.

I moved to a table nearby and sat with my back mostly toward them, turned just enough where I could spy on them without them noticing me. I leaned back to listen in.

Though he appeared to be sobbing, Andy made no noise. I wondered if, instead, he was actually laughing – some people look like they are crying when they are actually laughing – and waited for him to respond with a comment such as, “That’s funny,” or “You’re a riot.” I wondered if Carol told him a funny joke and Andy was laughing partly because of her deadpan delivery.

“What’ll you have, sir?” the waitress asked me. She delivered her words at a volume that jarred me from my eavesdropping enough give me that chilled feeling I dislike when the adrenalin of shock flows.

“Um, coffee...coffee, cream and two sugars.”

“Two coffees, one with cream and sugar.”

“No, no. One coffee. Cream and two sugars.”

“You said two coffees.”

“No, only one coffee.”

“You said, ‘coffee coffee.’ That’s two coffees.”

I tossed the waitress a glare. “I stammered. Sorry.”

“Maybe you need less coffee. Want a chocolate milk instead?”

I shot her another glare.

“Ok, coffee, cream and sugar.”

“Two sugars.”

“Yes, I got it, two sugars.”

I leaned back again to listen to Carl and Andy. A moment passed.

“Is this funny to you?” Andy asked.

“Do you see me laughing?” Carol replied. I turned my head enough to catch a glimpse of Andy putting his head back down on his hands. I couldn’t catch if he was laughing or crying, but I noticed his face was red. I thought, it could be red from crying. Or from laughing. Or from sunburn.

“What did you put in that?” Carol asked. Andy did not reply.

I wondered if there was something in Andy’s coffee. Maybe he ordered a jalapeno mocha, and the drink was too spicy for him. That could cause his face to turn red and possibly his head bobbing motions. Perhaps the drink was so spicy it caused him to start panting. Maybe he splashed some on his hands and he rubbed his eyes. That would explain the bobbing, the red face, the tears I assumed were in his eyes, and his glasses on the table.

“Don’t worry. I got this.” Andy said.

I wondered what Andy meant. Maybe he got a rash. That would explain the tears and the red face, and him cowering into his hands to hide his face rash from the public. It would explain the glasses on the table, his rash was too itchy to allow him to wear the things. It would explain the bobbing; his face itched, but he could do nothing to scratch it without spreading the rash. Maybe he was allergic to something in the coffee.

Then I thought the worst. Maybe what he meant was that he got some kind of disease. Maybe it was terminal. Maybe he was crying because he had a terminal disease, and it caused a horrible rash on his face, he could no longer see, he had no control over the involuntary spastic bobbing of his head, and could no longer enjoy his favorite coffee beverage.

“Here’s your ‘coffee coffee, cream and two sugars.’ ” The waitress said, plopping the cup and saucer on the table in front of me. She again jolted me out of my focus, and I again felt that awful adrenalin pump.

“Thanks.” I looked down at the coffee. I didn’t want to drink it. I didn’t want to pick up the cup. I didn’t want to touch it if it was going to give me some kind of spicy flavor burn, facial rash, or terminal illness. I pushed the cup away.

I leaned back to listen to the conversation.

“What did you put in that?” Carol asked again. Andy still sat with his face buried in his hands.

“The only thing I can think of is bandages.” Andy said.

“Come on, Andy. You’ll have to do better than that.”

I wondered what Carol meant. I didn’t see any bandages. I wondered how bandages figured into Andy’s physical and emotional state. I could stand it no longer. I rose and approached their table.

“Hi, Maxie!” Carol said, extending her hand to shake.

Andy raised his head from his hands. He put on his glasses. His expression turned surprised, and appeared to be happy. “Hi, Maxie!” He stood and patted me on the back. “Come join us.”

I looked at Andy. The redness disappeared from his face. He sported no tears. I automechanically shook Carol’s hand as I sat.

“Hi, guys,” I said. “Wha...what are you doing?”

“You know, enjoying a cup of coffee on the patio.” Andy returned to his seat.

“I saw you sitting here, but, I...I wasn’t sure what you two were talking about. I didn’t want to interrupt.”

“Oh,” Carol said, “Andy’s just working on his lines for the play.”

I must have looked confused.

“Yeah, he and I got the leads in the amateur actors’ rendition of Cry Me a River.” Carol turned to Andy and resumed her expressionless look. “And he can’t remember his lines.”

“No, I got it, I got it.” He put his head in his hands and bobbed his head a few times. He looked up. “All I can think of is bandages.”

“Your line is, ‘Curare.’ One word. You can’t remember one word.”

“I keep thinking it’s ‘Curads.’ But I know it isn’t because I know it’s not bandages. But now all I can think of is bandages, because I know it’s not bandages.”

“Excuse me.” I walked over to my table, grabbed my cup of coffee, and returned to talk to Andy and Carol. I sipped from my cup. It didn’t taste spicy and I didn’t break out in a rash.