We no longer speak…why… read more
We no longer speak.
But I know I owe it all to her. She helped me save him. After we left the shop the first time, it went like this:
Half way down the street. I grabbed her arm.
‘We have to go back!’ In my head, that is a pivotal moment and I said it loudly and firmly. She, on the other hand, swears I mumbled it and that it was one sentence in a longer conversation.
We can’t agree.
I think she looked at me like I was mad but I also think, even then, she knew. We had to go back. We did go back.
I spun on my heel, forced myself to look at the café , took a breath and walked determinedly back. Striding across the pavement. At least that’s how I remember it.
She says it was more of a slow, bewildering, uncertain saunter. She says if you actually spin on your heel you will break your ankle. There could be more truth in her version?
Anyway, maybe it was neither. Perhaps we walked there in a non-descript manner, both of us thinking different things and neither of us speaking.
We went in. I could see the table. The one we had just been sitting at. I could see the cup still sitting there. But- there was a woman by the chair, taking off her scarf which had somehow caught on her coat. She was trying to untangle it before she sat down.
We literally had moments. The chair was pulled out from the table already.
I ran. Lifting an elbow, I slid past and underneath the woman’s tangled arm, straight into the seat. She was surprised. Stepped back. I might have made contact with my elbow. I deny it.
The waitress was about to pick up the coffee cup with my sleepy friend. I flung my hand out to grab the saucer. There was a moment when we both had hold of it before she recognised me and let it go.
The woman meanwhile had stumbled. (Again I deny contact) She’d tripped and was sat on the knee of the person across from us. I didn’t look around but I could hear the apologies in the background. My friend meanwhile ambled back in and sat across from me. That was really the beginning of the end of our friendship.
He was still there. In the coffee. Asleep. The waitress stood there and I blurted out an order for an espresso for my friend.
He was gently snoring, swirling chocolate sprinkles into the air. I didn’t wake him.
Meanwhile the woman I had elbowed (allegedly) out of the way had gone over to the owner and was remonstrating about my behaviour. I could see him looking at me. I coolly and steadily met his gaze. The waitress was scowling at the coffee machine as it spluttered into life. I suddenly knew what I had to do. I had a plan.
The waitress was quick with the espresso. I think she wanted us gone. She placed it on the table, all the time glaring at me. I didn’t care. Focus. I was going to save him. He was breathing, alive. I opened my mouth, out came the words, the question.
I asked the question, ‘How much to buy this cup?’
She looked at the cappuccino which was now well past being able to be drunk. She still didn’t seem to see him.
‘Cappuccino is £2.80.’ She seemed to be slurring her words but my friend denies that completely, said I was behaving erratically and making people nervous. Unlikely!
What a cheek that waitress had anyway, she’d already picked up the money we had previously left at this table. I owned this cappuccino already and whilst I am not sure of the ethics of it, I certainly felt I was responsible for the welfare of the person sleeping in it. Again a question to which the internet has no answer??
‘Is that with the cup?’ I asked.
‘Cant buy the cup,’ she said-firmly. She was really being combative now. I would not be put off. This was not a competition. I just wanted the cup and the cappuccino in it.
‘How much is the cup?’ I persisted. Focus is important to success. My voice was steel. My eyes reflecting a determination to succeed that would make a boxer proud.
I have read a lot of self help books about handling this kind of situation (although I should add, not ones that specifically addressed where you are trying to buy a coffee cup because there is a man sleeping in it).
She went over to the manager who seemed to be examining some kind of possible bruise on the woman I had elbowed away. Which was rubbish because she almost certainly had injured herself in untangling her scarf and coat. Anyway what did I care? Convict me for assault, I had more important things on my mind.
She came back. ‘We don’t sell cups,’ she drawled.
‘£10 for the cup,’ I said. My friend looked at me, then looked away. Embarrassed. I didn’t understand why she didn’t understand. She didn’t understand why I didn’t understand.
Maybe she was right. It was quite a lot to pay for a white cup.
I could see the manager now coming my way. I was desperate. There was some kind of weird force at work. This wasn’t me. This was not how I behaved. My friend looked down. She started stirring sugar into her espresso. Why, when I needed her to focus on the s-i-t-u-a-t-i-o-n????
The manager was having trouble getting through the chairs to our table. He had to be polite, asking people to move their chairs in. He was nearly at my table. There was one table between him and me. And two chairs would need to be moved so he could get through. I heard the screeching of chair feet on lino as one chair moved out of his way.
I could see his belly starting to push through as the occupant of chair number two reached for the side of her chair to move it. I had to act. I could see her hand sliding down to grip her chair, in seconds it would move and the manager would be at my table. He might not sell me the cup.
I did the only thing I could think of.
He was coming to my table from one side and the door was to the other side. He was squeezing through one set of chairs (his own fault-too many tables).
I grabbed the cup with the sleeping man. I stood up. I went for the door. There was still a table between us. The Manager was squeezing through chairs, almost through and out the other side. I was going in the other direction to the door, balancing the cup. Trying to keep it stable so he didn’t wake up.
The manager turned all his energy to me and made a final push towards me. He had almost made it. He was going to stop me. No!
The waitress stood there. Frozen in panic. Was a customer really about to steal a cup? On her watch? Her eyes wide, her face contorted in distress as if she just realised Titanic actually sinks.
The manager was so close. I could smell his cheap aftershave. I could feel the air swishing as his arm reached out towards me. If I’d looked at him I’d have been able to see each individual crumb in his beard.
I think I yelled.
I remember the sound of a chair screeching across a lino floor. You know that screech! It was melded in with my scream. I had a rush of adrenalin. I turned my head briefly to look back. I could see his blue jacketed arm, the desperate chubby fingers reaching towards me. I could see the belly poking out from under the orange shirt, buttons straining with the effort, his yellow tie twisting in time with his rage.
And then. My friend.
I saw my friend. Looking at him. Realising she was my only hope. Her hands seemed to be moving in slow motion to the side of her chair. One hand each side of her chair as she heroically pushed back into him. Her coffee flung down onto the table with the suddenness of her movement. Dark black beautiful syrupy coffee flew everywhere as I made the door.
He was sprawling backwards, yelling. It was too late. I was gone. The door flung open. A coffee perfectly balanced.
Out into the street. I held the cup, walked away and did not look back.
Stay tuned for what happened next, next week?