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.

There’s a man asleep in my coffee-part 4

And then one morning I woke up. And he? He was gone…read more

And then one morning I woke up. And he? He was gone. An empty coffee cup next to my bed, the milk cold and lifeless. He had slipped out in the night.

Just when I thought we had connected. We’d discussed our plans, set a timeframe, made a spreadsheet. I’d even changed my status to vegan on social media.

I sat on the sofa hugging a cushion hoping I was wrong, but I could see the trail of milk across the carpet and down the hall.

He had snuck under the door and gone! Just gone!

He can’t have gone far. I mean he was only an inch high so speed was not an issue. Nonetheless I failed to find him. I spent the morning going from coffee shop to coffee shop, ordering cappuccinos and leaving before I drank them. I still do that a lot. It’s been a struggle.

There was and has been no trace of him except the milky sludge trail on the carpet which I had to clean before the landlord inspected. There wasn’t even a note. Nothing. Just gone!

My parents tried to console me. That didn’t last, They are now serving beef at dinner parties as if the whole thing never happened. My mother was back on butter within a fortnight. Gone are the soy lattes, replaced with full cream mochaccinos, mocking me as if my pain meant nothing.

I spend lonely nights sitting on the sofa with the TV on. I don’t watch it. I spend my time scouring the internet for some kind of clue, for someone else who has had this experience.

I have found nothing. It seems there is no place on the internet for dairy based humans. My friends are worried. I am not. I am determined. They keep trying

I don’t want flesh and bone, I want dairy. I am sticking with dairy, there’s not even a question about that on Tinder btw.

The cup is still by my bed. I left it as it was until the stench of milk gone off was more than I could bear. I cleaned it and put it back. It is still there, along with a container of chocolate sprinkles. It’s as if he never left.

I say hello to the cup when I get home from work. I say goodnight and good morning to it.

I buy chocolate sprinkles and just open the tin, letting the sprinkles spread and waft in the air throughout the whole flat. No one visits so it doesn’t matter.

I have all the coffee ads downloaded on my phone. I am looking for clues. I have watched them all a 1000 times. Sometimes I think I see something but then it turns out to be nothing other than poor CGI.

I returned Tom Thumb to the library because that is a fairy tale and my life is not a fairy tale. It was well overdue. I had to ask my parents for the money to pay the fine.

I look at cottages on farms with cows all afternoon at work. I hope. Christmas is coming and I hope.

I thought that vegans might be on side but they hate me. People they say, no matter who they are, should not sleep in coffee made with diary. I tried to explain but they won’t listen.

I am alone. Even my parents have tried to convince me it wasn’t real and even if it was he isn’t coming back.

I have been back to that coffee shop. Its changed hands. I sit at the table where we first met. I am a regular. The same waitress is still there. We are friends now. She is the only person that believes me. Even though she didn’t see it, she has seen the pictures. And she believes me. Or at least she feels so sorry for me that she pretends. And isn’t that the basis for a lot of friendships?

And then –one evening. I could smell it as soon as I walked in the door. The subtle blend of frothy cappuccino milk and chocolate sprinkles. Fresh dairy. My heart skipped a beat. I literally ran towards my room and the cup.., and the cup… and there in front of me on top of the bedside table, there is. There he is. I am looking at him.

But it’s not him. It’s not him. It’s a her!

I sit on the bed. She looks me up and down. She is too small to look up and down so I just look.

She perches on the edge of the saucer. Then in a less squeaky voice than I imagined she said, ‘I thought you’d have a hat?’

That’s sass for you. Here she is in my house, perched on his saucer and she wants to talk clothes. These dairy types, they focus on the froth. I learned that the hard way

I reach for my cowboy hat that I had hidden under the bed since he left.

It cost me a packet and I had bought it ready for the farm. I had only worn it a few times. Mostly just to work. It never felt quite right in the office.

So we say there staring at each other, her in her hat and me in mine.

‘Where is he?’ I finally asked.

‘Oh honey,’ she said and I knew what was coming.

Nonetheless I went to the kitchen to get some honey anyway. Apparently it makes for smoother coffee than sugar when you sleep in cappuccinos-something about sugar in your shirt. I sat the jar of honey on the dresser next to her. I took off the lid. I could see her trying to inhale the fumes. I didn’t like her already. I waited for what was coming next.

What happened-find out next week-who is she? Does he come back. Read more next week.

There’s a man asleep in my coffee-part 3

What would you do-what if there was a man sleeping in your coffee? What if you found out you really liked him-read more…

It’s been 3 months. The manager of the café was relatively uninjured by the chair incident. Just a sprain, not a break. Some bruising. A torn shirt. And the tie pulled fast around his neck so he couldn’t speak for a week. Squeezed his vocal chords or something. I read it in the local paper. I guess she really rammed that chair into him.

The café is open again now although I haven’t been in there or even past it.

Also apparently the local paper said one of the customers was bumped and spilled her coffee in the confusion. She is suing. Him not us. The café may have to close again. And all because they wouldn’t sell me a cup. I don’t blame myself. Only one ambulance was called so it can’t have been that bad.

They haven’t been able to trace me. Mental note-always use cash. My own theory is they don’t want to trace me. Because I could sue! There was a man sleeping in my coffee- and I did not O-R-D-E-R that. There ought to be some compensation for the trauma!

Actually it has turned out well though so I have let it go. People say its not normal, but what is normal? I don’t care anyway. People say I have been behaving ‘erratically’. This is my third job since it happened. I sofa surfed for a bit and then moved to this new flat.

My parents have paid a lot of the bills. They aren’t really sure. Nonetheless they have gone vegan in support. I have given up cappuccinos. Something I once thought unthinkable but now I know that people sleep in them I can’t drink them anymore. Seriously look at your coffee next time-be sure.

He lives here now. He is with me most of the time. We get on. We are friends. I am not going to lie, I hope for something more. Its just the ‘how’ that is problematic.

He is a great guy. I know what you’re thinking. He sleeps in coffee cups-how great can he be? Well I say-who are you to judge? I bet you’ve slept in some dodgy places? Right? Yeh!

I’ve read Tom Thumb several times over and Thumbelina so I know what I am up for. I have informed myself. I know this is not a fairy tale, but what modern romance is. I know we can’t reproduce but he is the first person I really feel a connection too. Even though he’s basically dairy.

My friend and as I said last time, we don’t speak. She can’t give up cappuccinos. She had to give a statement for the police about the theft. It was just a cup! And I tried to buy it, but ultimately I was committing a crime for the higher purpose of saving a sleeping man.

 Apparently it was one of the first cups the café ever bought. I have kept it anyway. Its now his permanent bed. Its on my dresser- by my bed.

My friend was charged with assault but her Mum is a judge. She got it thrown out so its all good. She just isn’t speaking to me, because apparently she is banned in every coffee shop within walking distance of a tube stop. Café owners-they stick together. Who knew, like some sort of caffeine mafia. Probably I am banned as well but I just do herbal tea these days. 

Anyway my friend covered for me. She didn’t really give full details of what she’d said. It was quite a brief conversation. She doesn’t understand but I know I can never repay her. Sometimes its how friendships end.

How did he come to be sleeping in my coffee? Well he wasn’t born there. He was just travelling through and needed a rest. It’s more common than you think-apparently-but there’s still not a web page.

My parents are worried. No one wants their daughter to settle down with somebody who sleeps in other people’s hot drinks. I’ve lost friends over it. He is no good at parties although he can command a dinner table when the time is right-but it has to be vegan. It’s not polite to eat someone else’s bedding. Even the internet must agree with that.

He has relatives and he might introduce me. Maybe in the summer. He doesn’t do well in the summer. He dries out. We plan to spend it indoors.

I know you are thinking what everyone else is thinking-it’s a hopeless situation. But I care a lot about him and I think he cares about me. He is easily the best date I ever had.

Every so often someone sits me down and tries to talk sense to me. But there’s no point. This is my life and my decision. Up until now he has been mostly transient but we have plans. We can travel together. He has literally no baggage. And I can take a cup almost anywhere.

We want to go and live in the country. Near some cows. A paddock of cows is like his spiritual home. He is tired of the city with its posh coffees and hipster décor. He was moving to the country when we met actually, it’s just that it takes a long time to move through the city when you are an inch tall.

Now I think if I can keep this job for a bit, I can save for a bit. We can live happily in a cottage near a farm. I will probably get chickens. But we won’t be eating the eggs. Maybe some bees, but mostly we will live near cows.

Everybody will come around eventually I think. I think they will all come to see that I am happy and this is right for me.

Next week:

And then one morning I woke up and he. He was gone.

 

 

There’s a man asleep in my coffee-Part 2

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.

FOCUS.

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?

There’s a man asleep in my coffee!

There was a man-in a cowboy hat- asleep in my coffee…read more

I like this café. I come here a lot. The service is seamless, fluid. They serve every kind of coffee you can imagine and they sneer at tea drinkers-what’s not to like. Except today was d-i-f-f-e-r-e-n-t.

I always have a cappuccino, my name is just a coincidence. I never drink a latte-well would you if you were me?

We were sitting at a table. It’s busy enough that you can never get the same table. We’d ordered. Nothing out of the ordinary yet. I could hear the milk being frothed in the background. All perfectly normal.

The waitress came over and put the coffee down. I didn’t pay much attention. We were mid conversation. It was just a quick acknowledgement and the waitress was gone again. It was uneventful. I always have one sugar in my cappuccino.

They are one of those shops with the sugar in an open jar-never sure whether that’s more or less wasteful than a little paper sachet. The sugar at the bottom is often hard and they must have to just throw that away fairly often. Anyways (which is not a proper word-it should never have an ‘s’), I loaded the spoon with the sweet brown crystals and was steering it towards the cappuccino when just left of the chocolate sprinkles I saw-him.

There was a man asleep in my coffee! In a cowboy hat!

I know! Never happens. There was a man-in a cowboy hat- asleep in my coffee. The hat was covering his head which must have been resting on the smooth, white, porcelain rim. His torso was poking out while his bottom half was nested in frothy milk. A kind of dairy duvet scenario. He was snuggled down in silky, smooth, soft cow’s milk, full cream as well. Don’t believe in the skinny stuff myself.

My hand stopped dead. I mean just stopped dead, midway between the sugar jar and the coffee. After all, who wants to be sprinkled in sugar while they sleep (you’re right- there’s probably a website).

I just stared. My hand hovering. Just hovering in mid air with a loaded spoon, like a plane who’s pilot has just realised the engine have failed-only less dramatic because it was only a spoonful of sugar. Thank goodness for all that yoga that made that sugar spoon stillness so possible

I looked across at my friend and nodded towards my coffee. She looked at it. At first she couldn’t see it. But I made her look again.

We nodded together and I whispered, ‘There’s a man asleep in my coffee’.  He might have been only the circumference of a coffee cup tall, but he was asleep. In my coffee!

We looked at each other. Panic crossed both of our faces. This had never happened to either of us before, anywhere, ever and I have drunk a lot of coffee.  

‘I’ll search it, on the internet’ she said. And she did.

‘Nothing’ she whispered ‘only people falling asleep when robbing coffee shops.’

‘Common? That’s so common it comes up on a search?’

She nodded. Our stress levels were through the roof by now. The internet did not have an answer. I repeat, the internet did not have an answer!!!!

What exactly is 21st century etiquette when a café serves you coffee that has a man asleep in it.

‘Try tea’ I said. Still nothing.

Could it get any worse?????

It got worse!!!!  He-started-to-snore. It was low level at first, just a kind of small humming sound. But then he started sucking in milk and it got messy. Really messy. This is why dairy duvets will never take off. This is why sprinkling chocolate granules on someone who is sleeping is a bad idea-it gets messy. Really messy-I have said it twice now, but just for emphasis-here it is a third time-really messy.

I looked at my friend. She looked at me. No one else seemed to notice. There was foam flying everywhere and the air in the cafe seemed laced with the faint whiff of chocolate sprinkles. There was a continuous low level breathing and snorting. NO ONE NOTICED!!!! I checked all my social media feeds, NO ONE HAD NOTICED!!!!

The waitress came over. ‘Is everything OK?’ she said, calmly, serenely. She had failed to notice the life changing event happening before us as well.

My friend and I looked at each other. We were both thinking the same thing. We will only get through this if we both pretend it’s not happening. We both nodded. ‘Yep Ok’ slipped off both our tongues simultaneously. Snap. We both went red. She looked at us, not at my coffee, not at my table. She-looked-at-us. It was like it wasn’t happening on her planet.

Embarrassed. We sat there. Hoping she would notice. Hoping she wouldn’t notice.

Hoping someone would notice. Hoping no one would notice. Hoping what-that he might sink into my coffee and drown, or leap up out of it and –and what???? Either way you can’t drink a coffee when someone has slept in it. Can you? I mean can you????

My friend positively skulled her coffee as I searched desperately for a fiver and enough change to cover the cost. Posh shop ‘n all this one.

We both got up and got the hell out of there. Leaving him there asleep, my coffee untouched. A spoon of sugar spilled all over the table and the money in a sloppy pile. The faint whiff of sprinkles swirling in the café air, we barged through the café door, elbowing someone else out of the way and started walking away as fast as we could.

Read next week and see what happens next…