A second-rate morning takes a surreal turn for a cynical Millennial woman
He’s gone today. His replacement, a middle-aged woman with smudged lipstick and a Charizard tattoo on her upper arm, blinks at you so slowly that the left eye closes a second before the right.
“Outta maple bars. As you can see, in the case.”
“Nevermind. Just one glazed with a medium coffee, please?”
“Only got small and large cups. No mediums.”
“Large costs fifty — ”
“Fucking hell ring it up already!”
She blinks again. You both wait. You miss Tim.
“Large costs fifty cents extra. Self-pour.”
You hand her the cash in exchange for the cup and donut. Because you’re an asshole, you unzip the coin pouch in your wallet and dump it unceremoniously into the plastic tip jar. At the coffee station, you squeeze in between a nondescript construction worker and the man who owns the liquor store across the street and ignore their raised eyebrows as you aggressively punch out a self-invented Morse code onto the “Pour” button.
FUCKFUCKFUCK FUCK FUCKFUCK FUCK.
This is not supposed to happen. You’re supposed to walk into All Star Donut, make eye-contact with Tim, watch Tim fumble with your order while you lean coquettishly over the counter and murmur, “Thanks, Timothy,” ask Tim/Timothy about his relationship, smile when he reminds you he doesn’t have one, and not pay.
The really important part is that you’re not supposed to pay. You come, you seduce Tim, you save $4.25. This is the reason you were able to afford AirPods.
You take it all as a clear indication that the entire day is wrong. Bad. Garbage. So, when you’re waiting on the corner of 9th and Market, you’re not surprised when the passing motorcyclist lets out a hearty “Whoop!” in your direction.
You’re smirking, sipping your somehow already tepid coffee, when you hear her.
“Oh, dear,” followed by a twinkling of giggles.
At first, you can’t identify the source. Aside from day-drunk Robert yelling at the pigeons across the street, there’s no one with you on the corner. Assuming you’re simply hearing things because your day is effectively ruined and therefore warped, you start scrolling through your Instagram feed. That’s why you don’t see it happen the second time.
“LOOKIN’ REAL GOOD!”
ALRIGHT, MOTHERFUCKER — but there it is again. Giggling. Little lady laughs. Outraged, you turn around.
“Oh my!” she says, as she worries at the clasp of her beaded pocketbook.
It’s a physical improbability, but she might be one-third of your size. Her hair, downy white tufts, forms a cloud on her small, childlike head. Huge, shiny eyes. Tiny, delicate nose. Her thin lips are painted a vivid magenta and curl in a simple smile. Her name is Loretta. You learn this because she whispers, “Hi! I’m Loretta.”
She looks fucking amazing.
Because your now hand-crank brain is being operated by a small monkey on Xanax, you miss the following in their rapid, nearly overlapping succession.
“LORD HAVE MERCY!”
“WE HAVE BEEN BLESSED!”
The onslaught is more than you can handle. Unbelievable! You look at Loretta, your tongue fumbling around the contours of an apology. She must think you’ve fucked anything with a pulse in a three-block radius.
“FINE AS ALWAYS, LORETTA.”
There, the clumsy batting of thin, translucent eyelashes. No. No no no.
“I, uh, you, walk, here, why, how, no, okay, um, do, uhh?!”
If your Rhetoric professors could see you now.
Loretta shakes her head knowingly, then pats your arm. Reassures. Smiles.
A policeman, an actual fucking policeman, exits All Star Donut and walks your way, brandishing his energy drink like a baton.
“Loretta, you heartbreaker!”
He pivots, glares at you. “This man here bothering you, Lolo?”
“I…am…wo…man,” you spurt out. A swan song.
“Oh, no! I’m quite fine, Officer Collins.”
You’re not sure how long you’ve been standing there. How many hours have passed? Days? You can’t feel your legs. You can’t feel anything.
Is…dead now? Your sweet, sweet brain, heartbreakingly pumping the pedals of a stationary bike.
Somehow, Loretta hasn’t moved. Unsurprisingly, because nothing surprises you now, because you are dead, she links her fragile bird-bone arm in yours.
“Come on, Ike. We don’t want to miss the rest of happy hour. You know how Mitch always holds a couple of stools for us.”
“I hate happy hour. Too noisy.”
“Oh, Ike, you’ve always been a jealous old bird. Here, I brought you some Necco wafers.”
You quickly grab the roll of wafers and shove them in your pocket. Suddenly, you notice you’ve been crossing the street. For how long?
An invisible thread pulls your spine into affirmative, proud alignment. You assume a convivial posture.
Loretta is your woman. You are Loretta’s man.
As you glide like twin kites across the now-bustling avenue, you hear them.
“IKE! LUCKY MAN!”
“LOOK AT YOU LOVEBIRDS!”
A bike courier high-fives you as she coasts by. Ticker tape explodes in the sky. There is a piano playing.
Loretta squeezes your arm — once, twice. You wave at the bus driver, at day-drunk Robert, who waves back. A bluebird alights on your shoulder, chirps approval, disappears.
“Well, thank you all so much. Thank you! Thank you!”