Check pockets again. Turn them inside out, feel for holes. A toonie. Sigh, and enter the café.
“Large tea. Two creams, two sugars please.”
“It’s just leaves in hot water.”
Eye roll. “Dollar-ninety-five, please.”
Reluctantly part ways with the coin, now warmed by clenched fist. Return empty hand to empty pocket.
“Thanks.” Nickel thrust across counter. An insulting replacement, but pocketed nonetheless. Murky tea passed to my waiting hand. Dishwater.
“I asked for cream.”
“Most people take milk, but I asked for cream. Most people would drink this, but I will not be left with murky milk tea and a nickel as all I have to my name.”
Long pause. Both of us averting eyes and taking deep, calming breaths.
“Okay.” Turned back, eye roll. New tea. Proper colour. Warm beige, not a bit grey. Tastes like home.
“Have a good day.” Under breath. “Asshole.”
Clutch tea between numb hands, walking briskly. Late for work. Not ready to face Dustin’s purplefatface, or that of his nitwit secretary. Footsteps crash against concrete, his condescension infuriating before even entering the building.
Round the corner directly into a tiny old man who topples backward, life flashing before his eyes. Tea goes flying, arms outstretch, fingers grasp at his coat and yank him upright.
Nose to nose, brown eyes widened, staring. Yell into his face.
“Are you alright, sir? I am so sorry! I had no idea you were right there, wasn’t paying attention. Are you hurt?”
Blank stare. Dear god, he’s in shock.
“You save me.” Wide, toothy grin. Steps backward and bows head. “Thank you.”
“Thank-you? I nearly ended your life, sir. I nearly sent you flying into oncoming traffic.” Don’t admit my initial instinct to save my tea, but glance sadly at the crumpled remains of the paper cup, warm liquid seeping gradually over the pavement.
“You drop it.”
“Starbuck too pricey. More like five-buck.”
“Nice smile, nice girl.”
“You sure you’re okay?”
“Well, good. I guess I should go then.”
“Happy good day, lady!”
“Happy good day, sir!”
Two more blocks, roundabout doors, front lobby, elevator stops on 3,4,5,7, and get off on the 8th floor.
“Late again, my, my.”