A Cup For Joe

I watched him every day, buying cigarettes and coffee for himself and lottery tickets for his girlfriend. He looked seventy, but he was closer to fifty.

 He didn’t seem to like anyone much, but he always said my coffee was good. A small iced and a glass of water. Maybe to make the coffee last longer, I thought as he counted out the dimes and the nickels and the line grew impatient behind him. I wish I could say I was more patient than they were.

 He was gruff and didn’t seem to notice when he pushed others out of the way. Maybe if I were in as much pain, I wouldn’t notice either.

 One day, he pushed up to the counter and someone called him an asshole. It hurt my heart. Do they not understand that he has enough going against him already? That he doesn’t need them to add another injury to his unhappiness? But I said nothing.

 When I heard he’d died, I wanted to cry. I hadn’t even liked him all that much for most of the time I had known him, but the more of his pain I came to see, the more I understood.

 Later that night, I was thankful that the last coffee I sold him hadn’t been paid for in nickels and dimes—at least not his own. He’d been short that day and I knew he really wanted that small iced with a glass of water.

 “You’re all set, Joe. Enjoy your coffee,” as I took the change from the tip cup on the counter.

 “Thank you, Honey.”

 “You’re welcome.”

 He called me honey. I told you he liked my coffee, even if he didn’t particularly like me.

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One response to “A Cup For Joe

  1. i have a favorite customer that nobody likes.
    ::
    the rest of my co-workers, including management, know her only as ‘skeletor’ (a reference to her painfully emmaciated physique). i know her by name.
    ::
    my co-workers see her as a hassle (i work for a large chain and she has been kicked out of every store in the region but ours–she once broke a team member’s arm trying to force her way back into the produce prep room). i see her as a woman who, while very demanding, is a devoted customer. she shops 5-6 nights a week and only buys enough for the day. always it is fresh food and always she is very picky about quality. fanatically picky.
    ::
    am i any better than my co-workers? i don’t think i am.
    ::
    like you, i was once nice to someone that nobody could stand, and less than a week after parting company with him i learned he had been murdered.
    ::
    that i was nice to him was a fluke of conviction. the holy spirit actively nudged me into his path and held me there.
    ::
    now, however, i tend to make a conscious effort on my own. i’m glad joe liked your coffee. i am glad you decided to talk about it.

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