She parted her hair in the mirror finish of the window, dodging the look of the eleventh fucking guy so far today. Her hangover was splitting her head in two and moving her hair seemed to make it slightly better. Fucking placebo, she remonstrated herself. She seemed presentable, clothes clean, hair nice, fucking normal enough for fucking work.
She fished a crumpled soft pack out of her purse. Two left. A wave of relief spread through her that almost made her light headed. She needed to burn down a smoke to steel herself before the daily bullshit enema that was her job. She lit her bent smoke and walked away from the hustle and bustle of the subway station. She was only walking in the general direction of her office, taking a side street and wandering into the back streets. Normally it was only about a two minute walk from work to the station, straight along a main road, but she wanted to savor the smoke, so a wandering long way it was.
Why the fuck did she get so blasted last night? What the fuck? she said audibly, blowing out a cloud of smoke to articulate her reflexive frustration. A hangover was bad enough, but the bullshit of work too. It was almost too much. She’d considered calling in sick. She never took a day off, they’d believe it, no problem. But no, she’d thought that it would wear off as the buzz of the coffee came on and the booze leached out of her bloodstream. The train ride wasn’t long enough, the fear remained. She was, in her estimation, worse off than when she made that decision. Now she was wandering a back street trying to work up the courage to actually go into work in this state.
She rounded a corner and saw a coffee stall poking out of the front of a building. A bored looking man in his 50s was manning the place, and above his greying head was a large menu that listed one item “coffee” along with a cheap price. Sweet manna from heaven, she thought, fucking jackpot.
She walked up and startled the man. She apologized and he demurred, there are almost never any customers at this hour he explained, but no matter. She asked if coffee was really the only thing for sale and he confirmed. He sold standard drip coffee; he could add cream or sugar if she wanted, but he’d have to check that he still had cream. No matter, she told him, she took it black.
The man flipped a switch on one of three small drip coffee makers. It’ll take a minute, he apologized, adding that he hoped she wasn’t in a hurry. She shrugged, she kind of was, but she’d already ordered. Too late now, she thought. She was too hungover to really work up much of a care.
The man sat back down in his chair and resumed working on the sudoku in his newspaper. She leaned her weight on one foot and looked around the street. The coffee maker gurgled and the smell of coffee beans wafted from the small stand.
I’m really sorry but, she paused gathering her thoughts and the attendant looked up at her, your stand is a bit, uh, unusual.
I’ve been told that. The man replied nonplussed. But really, it’s a simple stand on a quiet street. I have a few customers, enough to pay my bills and I sell a simple product at a reasonable price. Perhaps compared with coffee stands in general, yes, it’s a bit odd, but contextually, he waved his hand slowly as if conducting the street scene, it is actually perfectly normal.
She stood pensive. I guess it is, she replied, still too hungover to really consider the situation. Existence was absurd at the moment, gauging how absurd this place was visavis everywhere else required more brain cells than she could muster.
A puff of steam rose out of the coffee maker and the man stood up and poured the black liquid into a completely plain takeout coffee mug. She paid in exact change and turned to walk away.
Excuse me, ma’am, if it isn’t too much of a bother, please try the coffee to make sure it is to your satisfaction. Please, he added meekly, if you have any constructive criticism of the taste, tell me so that I might improve my brew.
She looked at him with an eyebrow reaching high. I take my coffee very seriously, he replied to her silence. She shook her head in a mixture of disbelief, confusion, and mental haze. This was way too much for a hungover morning. Still, she took a sip, the coffee was hot, but not too hot, and the flavor was orgasmic. It was the best coffee she’d ever had, and the best by such a margin that it almost tasted like a new drink, some sort of super coffee.
Oh, god. She said after her first sip. She looked at the man, who gave her a kind smile. I’m glad to see you enjoy your cup, I hope you drink it to the lees and each sip is enjoyable as the first. He bowed slightly, then sat down, returning to his sudoku. She stood confused by the entire situation. She thought, if only for a second, that she was still passed out, or maybe she fell and hit her head and this was some sort of weird coma dream. She walked down the street, now heading towards the office, nursing the coffee that seemed to eliminate her hangover in a few wondrous sips.
What the fuck. She said out loud when she entered her office’s elevator. That was fucking weird.
The door opened into her office and its awful, antiseptic and copy toner smell filled her lungs. Dread coursed through her veins. She took a sip and a step forward. Fuck you office, she said under her breath, this fucking magical coffee is gonna get me through.