In the air-conditioned lounge I met a man from Houston who said his name was something or other — “but just call me Jimbo” — and he was here to get it on. “I’m ready for anything, by God! Anything at all. Yeah, what are you drinkin?” I ordered a Margarita with ice, but he wouldn’t hear of it: “Naw, naw…what the hell kind of drink is that for Kentucky Derby time? What’s wrong with you, boy?” He grinned and winked at the bartender. “Goddam, we gotta educate this boy. Get him some good whiskey…
About that time The Daily Post @ WordPress challenged me to write Gonzo.
It’s Sunday afternoon, the last silver rays of the setting sun crawl across the shiny surfaces in the coffee shop down the street from my apartment. The warm, humid air smells of hot brew and chocolate chip muffins. The girl in front of me in the queue steps up to the counter “Two Latteys, please.” but her mousey voice is defied by the swooshing sound of the milk steamer and the chattery noise from the crowd of customers around her, seated in the black faux leather armchairs around the six-cornered pretend-vintage cherry-wood tables, some on the high-chairs by the tall window tables, others waiting for their orders to get to them or to be placed. Loud laughs and high-pitched outcries emanate from a particularly enthusiastic group of mid twenty-ish girls in oversized second or third hand wool cardigans of any off-colour you could name, missmatched beanies, broad brimmed glasses and enormous scarfs. A skinny jeaned boy-man wearing a fedora and a perfectly groomed hobo-beard triggers a supplementary clamor as he drops down into the last vacant seat at their table.
“Whah? I di’end catch thah'” responds the gum-chewing, remarkably skinny barista as she leans towards mousey. The barista’s layers of off-coloured makeup reflects the cold January light. “Two La-tey-s, please” repeats mousey, leaning forward, straining her pitchy voice to the effect that it sort of breaks at please making it sound like just the plea, as if these two “la-tey-s” would save her life. “gotteh'” issues the perpetually chewing mouth of the brunette barista. She presses some buttons of her cashier machine in high speed, pauses without looking up and asks mousey “skeehm, regulah oh soy?”. “Excuse me?” “SKEEHM, Ree-gulah ooah Soh-I!” “Milk?” “YES of co-ahs meehlk, sweethaht, wheah dooh yooh theenk yooh aah?”. A man wearing a canary yellow t-shirt printed with black letters reading “I don’t think one can ever generalize” on the front bumps into my shoulder and apologizes, fleetingly fixating some random spot above my left ear before he turns and walks on through a group of cheerfully chatting mom-jeaned ladies to his laptop on a small table by the midnight green wall.
The second barista waves one exuberantly bejewelled hand topped off with black nail-polish at me to step forward. “What can I get’ya tohday, honey?” her square, glaringly red painted mouth enquires. “I’d like the skim milk for both, please” mousey squeaks at the barista. I order a soy latte and decline the offer of “two mixed-chip cookies for the price of one tohdaaay”. Mousey accepts. We pay simultaneously and usher our way to the left-hand end of the counter to wait for our orders. We wait, standing opposite each other. “Sure is loud in here” her answer is a look mixed of fear and forced politeness. She straightens her unseasonably thin bloomed skirt and smiles shyly at the wooden floor. Her pale ashen hair falls in un-styled curls across her face and I cannot help but feel sympathy for this misplaced, uncomfortable girl. We get our orders and she smiles a last time before she struggles her way through the shop to a like-wise mousey, bespectacled little man by the window tables. I step through the tall glass-doors into the crispy clean air remorsefully picturing the struggle the mice will have communicating in the den of cats.