I get to Expressions while the afternoon is still young. It's so bright out that it feels like evening may never come.
Usually I leave my backpack and coat at an open seat before ordering my drink. But this time strangers already share tables.
The baristas are two girls. One of them has worked nearly every time I've come. The other I've seen only a couple times.
While in line, I scan for an open seat amidst the crowd of people, books, mugs, Naglene bottles, and laptops. So many different noises are in competition that the baristas need to shout the names of finished orders at the top of their lungs for their voices to cut through.
I consider leaving the cafe to study someplace else. I would still get my drink of course. No place on campus serves decent coffee. I decide to myself that I'll stay if a seat opens up within a minute after receiving my drink. If not, then I'll leave and find a place on campus. Maybe just sit at Burkley caf while nibbling on fruit.
While in line, I ignore the tables. There's no point in looking for an open seat while in line right now. If one does open up, I wouldn't be able to go claim it anyhow. No point in feeling hopeless, sweating over something I have no control over. Instead, I watch the baristas darting between pouring coffee, swiping credit cards, putting sandwiches between the grill press, and pressing buttons on the hissing espresso machine.
Whenever the front door opens, a blast of cool, fresh, air shoots inside and attracts gazes, including mine All in all, five people spin around and leave immediately after opening the door and examining the crowd. Still, most people make a slight face of discomfort before joining the crowd.
I order a large almond milk latte, with a zucchini bread on the side. I would feel bad if my bill only consisted of a feeble latte when it's this busy. To make it worse, I'm using a credit card. I add a decent tip -- two dollars -- on the receipt and sign my name.
I don't think the barista cares whether a person buys one drink on a credit card or five. In fact, she probably prefers one since her pay is independent from the amount of money the cafe brings in. But still, I care in my own head for some reason.
I walk over to the side of the counter to stand and wait. The person in front of me who has found himself an open seat and has already got his laptop out and his coat hanging over the chair.
I look around to see if there might be an open seat someplace. None. Behind me I hear the banging of metal. Some piece of the espresso machine that the baristas are always banging whenever lattes are being made.
Anytime, somebody stands up from their table, I peer from the corner of my gaze to see if they are leaving. Two do get up while I'm waiting for my drink, but one is just refilling their Naglene bottle with water and the other is just going to the bathroom.
I think about where I might go if no table opens up by the time my drink finishes. I decide against not waiting a full minute holding my drink and zucchini bread here like a silly girl. I will go someplace else. But where?
Burkley caf. Right, I had already decided. But then why did I buy a drink and this piece of bread?
"Almond Milk Latte Double Espresso!" shouts the barista.
The guy who was standing in front of me comes to grab his drink. He ordered the same thing as me but with one more shot of espresso. He flashes me a perfunctory smile while keeping his shoulders slouched. I smile back and quickly go back to staring at the cafe.
Less than 20 seconds later the barista comes and tells me softly across the counter. "Almond Milk Latte."
"Thank you." I say. and then I take a deep breath, close my eyes before turning around.