There’s a man asleep in my coffee-part 5

A happy ending…at last.


Love-who gets is. Sometimes you find it in the oddest places. A coffee cup. A café. A theft. A law suit-well several law suits.

The dairy queen on my dresser, well, she just said the obvious. ‘Dairy don’t mix’ in some odd dialect. He wasn’t coming back. He never came back. Let me dispel your romantic notions here and now. Never hook up with a bloke who sleeps in coffee. He will break your heart and ruin your diet forever. Not to mention you becoming the one everybody stares at when you order a double soy latte-ccino-mochagato skinny, no sugar- please.  

He moved on. Just like that. Out my door. No warning. Just milk stains on my carpet and chocolate sprinkles for air freshener.

He met a girl –apparently. One of his own ‘kind’- in a latte in Shoreditch.

I needed to put my life back together. I went from café to café. I ordered coffee that I couldn’t bring myself to drink, even when I could remember what was ethical.

Then finally I ended up back there, where it all started, at that café. Even though someone else was running it now. I endured months and months of loneliness. I lived at the café. Literally. I put up a small tent under the table. The waitress convinced the new owners it was ok. They all thought I would get through it-eventually. My parents paid some nominal rent. The waitress was kind and sweet.

I lived on cookies from glass jars on the counter. My parents put all my stuff into storage. I washed myself in the café sink. I knew it couldn’t go on but how to stop it?  

I became something of a fixture. People wanted selfies with me. No one quite got it. They didn’t believe he existed, had ever existed.  Then a few people got it. They formed a self help group-for them not for me.

I slept curled up in a ball because there was no room under a table to stretch out. I worked on my lap top in my tent.

And then one day ‘he’ walked in. Just like that-‘he’ walked in.

No not him, the other one, the former owner. ‘He’ was ecstatic. ‘He’ had finally tracked me down and I would be brought to justice. He stood outside my tent door. I could almost feel the sense of victory emanating from his shins in through my tent flaps. I could see the shadow of his legs when the sun came through the window- at that angle, at that time, on that day. Justice and vengeance wasn’t my first thought. My first thought was-nice legs. He must have lost some weight.  

It was fate. After half an hour of just staring at his legs in shadow, I emerged from the tent. I only received visitors on the floor. So he sat down. I motioned the waitress to bring my usual order.

We sat crossed legged on the floor while café life went on around us. I can’t even tell you how it happened. He looked at me. I looked at him. For the first time since it all happened, our eyes met. I remembered those eyes from before. His look of terror as I had stolen his cup. My look of horror as he had sought to wake my love from his sleep.

He handed me court documents. That was to be expected. I rolled my eyes. He had slimmed down, cleaned himself up. He was even dressed better. I, on the other hand, hadn’t washed that week, had lost my hairbrush and was waiting for my mother to bring me more toothpaste. They say love is blind.

We just sat there staring at each other across court documents. Thousands of pounds in law suits. The silence only broken when my actual body odour caused him to take out a handkerchief and cover his mouth. He had loud pockets, full of change that jangled as he struggled to get the handkerchief out. Still our eyes stayed locked.

I could see the chocolate sprinkles on the handkerchief. I raised my eyebrows and he spoke, ‘I like the smell.’ And that was it, at that moment. I think I knew without really knowing. I smiled. He smiled.

I took out the last £10 I had and paid him for the cup. He nodded. We weren’t in love, at least not yet. But we both knew there was a possibility. A chance.

He came back every day after that. We sat and talked about the law suits, about how we would pay them. He agreed that arm was definitely a strain and not a break and the coffee can’t have been that hot. He deliberately had the machine set at a lower temperature to save money. It would have been lucky to be lukewarm but he didn’t feel he could say that in court. In the end he did anyway.

I showed him the photo of the man asleep in the cup and he-he believed me.

And slowly, so slowly we fell in love. I washed more often. Combed my hair on Tuesdays as well as Thursdays. Arranged for my toothpaste to be delivered and in a giant step forward I moved the tent to a corner of the cafe so it wasn’t in everyones way. The waitress watched on, intrigued, startled. All those apps and this, a moment like this had never happened before. Long, slow burn, effort made, effort rewarded, love.

Eventually he and I bought a house in the country, near some sheep. I put up a huge tent in the backyard and we got married. We use the facilities in the house. There was no puffy white dress. We went for a cowboy theme crossed with hipster café culture that you won’t find on the internet-well you probably will because what is a hipster if not a cowboy who can’t find a horse and uses his phone like a gun.

We lived sometimes happily and sometimes sadly ever after. I never saw anybody asleep in a coffee cup ever again. Being honest I went back to cappuccinos and I never looked that hard. Perhaps I have eaten his children inadvertently doused in sprinkles of chocolate. I like to think that perhaps dairy has moved on. I started to consider the inherent rudeness of sleeping in a beverage paid for by someone else. I got angry, then sad and then acceptance that you can drink coffee even though you know there is a risk involved. That love turns up in the weirdest of places and that love-love outruns us all.

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