I see a barista at a certain Starbucks a lot of mornings. I don’t think she has any idea who I am or registers how or why I might know something about her. She is slight, small, plain-featured, easy to overlook. She always seems with-holding, like she doesn’t quite want to participate in the cheery bustle of her surroundings I don’t blame her at all.
I didn’t notice her at all until one morning a few years ago when I ran into one of my coworkers at that Starbucks. At the sugar and cream island, he pointed her out to me and said “I just asked that barista out! We’re having coffee on Wednesday! I’ve had a huge crush on her!” He then plunged head-long into a revolving door that was locked and wouldn’t revolve, which made the whole thing a funny story.
I’d never been close to this co-worker. We were both young-ish and relatively new, and worked near each other, and he had made a few friendly overtures. I was polite to him, but held him at arm’s length, consciously, because he seemed too avid to me. I didn’t think he was hitting on me. I thought he was gay.
Maybe the small barista thought he was gay too, and was startled into saying yes when he asked her for coffee, but that’s just a guess.
My curiousity over him and the barista, and my enjoyment of the revolving door scene, made me a lot friendlier with my co-worker. I had to know how coffee turned out. Wednesday afternoon I went over to his cubicle and asked him. He said, “Oh, I don’t know. It gave me pause.” He said she had a small child, and the father was still involved and gave her trouble sometimes. Her life seemed hard, intense. He didn’t think he was interested after all. He seemed disappointed, but in a normal way.
I wondered what the coffee date was like for her. I still thought maybe she was just being polite to a regular customer. Or maybe she thought he was really nice.
Three days later, we got a company-wide email that my co-worker had died. We found out later that day, he shot himself. He did it in his car in front of another co-worker’s house who had just been married.
When I saw the barista the next week, I wondered if anyone had told her or if she would ever know. She seemed wan and drawn, but she always did. I still wonder if anyone ever told her, or if she ever knew.