Roasting beans and the bustle of the morning filled the small storefront. Familiar faces drank from favorite mugs and a student picked at a scone while pouring over his textbook. The café shared a block with a used book store, a doggy daycare and muffler shop on the corner. The neighborhood was full of starving artists in skinny jeans renting apartments and a special breed of homeowners who are desperate for their children to know about The Smiths.
A young woman opened the door to the coffee shop on that Tuesday, the second of three days off from checking vital signs and tending to the feces of extra large post-op patients. She wore a lovely dress with a purple scarf and a light coat, perfect for the brisk fall morning. Scrubs and sweatpants were her clothes of choice but this day she dressed up to meet a friend who always out dressed her.
After paying for her cup, she found a table for two and watched the door. Her phone buzzed. The text from the well dressed friend; Sorry, car died. Not gonna make it. We’ll reschedule.
“Oh no.” She blurted out, not remembering that people shouldn’t respond verbally to texts in public.
“Is everything ok?” unexpectedly came from across the table next to her. A man sat facing her, in typical fashion of the area, wearing ragged jeans and an olive green jacket over a white t-shirt. His rather large messenger bag sat next to him. On his table sat not the usual MacBook Pro but a notebook, a folder and a few scattered sheets of paper.
Startled at his response she explained the content of the text; she would now be drinking coffee alone. Neither would go on to remember who took advantage of the cliché opportunity to merge tables and have coffee together, but just like the movies, a cute guy took advantage of a fortuitous moment and made a great impression on a fresh faced woman.
He seemed rather impressive throughout the morning, and when he asked her to go for drinks later that night she was faced with a dilemma. Finding someone free to go drinking with her on a Wednesday night excited her. Unfortunately he had Wednesday off because he had everyday off. The papers on his desk were his resume, which he was spending a great deal of time trying to refine. She decided to give it a chance because before he was unemployed he had achieve a business degree from Michigan State University so he couldn’t be that big of a bum.
“I don’t know what I’m thinking, he doesn’t even have a job for Christ’s sake!” She exclaimed as she nervously curled her hair.
Her roommate pushed her on her logic in the most condescending way. “I guess I’m just a sucker for projects,” She continued.
“No you just haven’t had anything to be excited about in a while,” the roommate clarified entering the bathroom. “And from what you said, sounds like he is the sexy hipster type. You know my motto, guys who are confident enough to wear dirty jeans, are confident enough to wear me out.”
“Oh will you stop that!” She interrupted. “Yes he was very handsome but his jeans were skinny, his hands were dirty.” She continued, “For once I just want to go on a date and have a normal guy who just kisses me at the end. I always end up with crazy boys or sleeping with a creep on the first date. What the hell is wrong with me, why and I doing this?”
“From the looks of that eyeliner, to make a few bucks. Oh wait he doesn’t have a job, who is going to pay?” the roommate replied with a snarky tone. “And he had dirty hands?”
“Not that dirty, I’m just a hands person so I noticed right away. If I have to pay, I pay,” she explained. “Its really that bad? Which one, blue-sexy, or green classy?”
“I was kidding, your eyeliner is fine. Depends, where do you want to sleep tonight?”
“Blue, it was a long weekend at work”
“Ok well if you come back here, keep it down, I have that meeting in the morning so I need some sleep,” the roommate explained as she left the room. She called over her shoulder, “And make sure he doesn’t steal our TV!”
She caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror on the wall of the bar as she entered and she thought, she might resemble a hooker just a bit. The bar was dimly lit but that did not stop her observation of him across the room. His hair and beard were perfect, that great five-o-clock shadow with messy hair look. And those eyes.
“I didn’t know if you were going to show,” he said playfully.
“I figured I had to hear the story of how a cute guy like you doesn’t have a job.” She word vomited unable to burry the lead.
He smiled a perfect dimply grin. “I hope we can find more pleasant conversation than that, or else its gonna be a long night.”
“Well a long night starts with one, let’s grab a drink.”
They walked to the bar, he let her order first, complimented her choice, and he ordered a cheap beer. Much to her relief, he took out his wallet and placed a few wrinkled bills on the counter. She thanked god to herself that he could pay for the drinks. And as the night went on she offered to pay for some and was turned down each time, each drink paid for in wrinkled cash. The conversation flowed like the drinks, both delicious and intoxicating. Parts of self were revealed slowly and the dirty little secrets were carefully danced around. The lights got lower and bar got louder and younger. They both realized they were getting a little bit drunk. Simultaneously they spoke.
He, “There is something I need to tell you.” She, “You want to make tonight happen?”
Not really hearing him, she repeats, “You want to make tonight happen?”
With an awkward chuckle, “Uh, what does that mean?”
“Oh God! Not that, I meant we’re a little tipsy and the bar is getting crowded. Are we going to commit tonight? I didn’t mean…”
“No, I get it now.”
“Not that I wouldn’t, I just didn’t…”
“Ya, lets just have a good time tonight.”
“Good,” she replied as the alcohol took a brief hold of her. “Are you wearing the same thing as before?”
“I didn’t have time to change. I was running around all afternoon.”
“So, you said you quit your job to take care of your parents?” She yelled over ther music.
“Ya the both got sick and didn’t have a ton of time, so I did what I had to do at the time.”
“And they didn’t give you your job back?”
“Ya things got complicated.”
“What was it you did again?”
“Dictionaries, or knives. Look it doesn’t really matter.”
“So is that why I’m sold on you right now, cause of your sales background?”
“No, its probably the brandy old fashioned and my skinny jeans.”
He was quick on his feet, she thought as they left the bar carried on three sheets of the wind.
“Morning,” he whispered to wake her gently.
“Oh hey, I had the most wonderful dream last night,” she professed. “I dreamt I met a wonderful salesman and we had a great time. What time is it?”
“Early. Got to start the job search early everyday.”
She almost forgot he was unemployed, “Well I love the ambition.”
“Ya thanks, listen, I need to tell you something. I tried to tell you last night but then we got so drunk and I couldn’t find the words.”
Her mind immediately raced to him being married.
“Now its not a big deal but, can I snag a shower here?” He asked her.
“Is it because you don’t want your wife to smell me on you?”
“No its not like that at all, I’m not married. But brace yourself. I’m not just jobless, I’m… I’m homeless.”
“What do you mean you’re homeless?” She replied dumfounded.
“I don’t have a home. Now don’t feel weird, I don’t want to stay here or anything. I actually really like you and want to see you again, I just needed you to know the truth.”
“How did this happen?”
“Well, we got drunk…”
“No I mean, how are you homeless?”
He began a crash course on how life falls apart. He had not lied to her yet. His parent had gotten sick and to keep them alive a little while longer he drained all the family’s money. He had taken time off to be with them but when they passed, he was devastated. They were his only family in the world and he loved them dearly. Their death had brought on a severe depression and he turned to drinking. He could no longer take care of himself. He couldn’t go back to work, he lost his job, he couldn’t make rent, he separated from all of his friends and finally he found himself on the street. Life can go wrong quickly mixing a drinking problem, severe depression, and a lack of support system. He was now one year sober and living out of the shelters, trying to get a job back, but its hard to nail an interview if you don’t have a mailing address. He asked again “Can I snag a shower?”
“You can stay here,” she only kind of said out loud.
“Do you mean that?” he responded, his voice aching to hear that she did not.
“No… I don’t know. I just, how am I supposed to respond to that?”
“Well how about this, I’m not going to stay with you. But what I am going to do is call you tonight and see if you want to go out to eat, or should I say dinner at my place. All you gotta say is yes or no…”