Considering how jittery I get and how I feel like my heart might explode whenever I drink coffee, I’m pretty sure one line of coke would kill me instantly. Not that I’ve ever considered doing coke. Well…maybe once, at my best friend’s friend’s boyfriend’s pre-gaming get-together. They were a bunch of well-off thirty-ish white guys in finance so I wasn’t too surprised when they brought out coke and started snorting it with a 100 Yuan note. Because apparently all of them had lived in China at some point. Something they brought up every five minutes, reliving their glory days of international travel and “finding themselves.” If I was ever going to try coke, it would’ve been then. But I passed, even when my best friend’s friend’s boyfriend offered me some for what must’ve been the third time that night.
“Okay,” he said, “No pressure. You know this reminds me of this one time when I lived in China. Did I mention that I lived in China…?”
All of which is to say, I don’t usually have coffee. But this particular morning, I was desperate. After hours of insomnia, I wasn’t able to get much shut-eye before my brother called me way (way) too early in the morning (4:49 to be exact (who does that?!)) to remind me the new Golf Le Fleur’s launched in a bit so I should wake up soon to make sure I snagged a pair before they sell out. (Golf Le Fleur Converse One Stars are the product of a collaboration between the shoe brand, Converse, and the rapper/oddball/artistic mastermind, Tyler, the Creator.) He didn’t want what had happened the past two times to happen again, i.e., me sitting dejectedly in front of the screen with the store’s website pulled up, desperately refreshing in the hopes that the sold-out shoes would magically restock. I know my brother was just looking out for me, but I wish he wouldn’t: it became clear I wouldn’t fall back asleep so I started getting ready early and sat in a Starbucks for a while before beginning my long trek to school.
Two hours pass and I really have to pee. Without the diuretic effect of coffee, my small bladder can go maybe five hours, if I really push myself; with the effect, two’s the max. In fact, making it this long is possibly my biggest accomplishment in recent weeks. I stop at yet another Starbucks along the way and slide into their bathroom as soon as it’s free. I release a seemingly endless stream into the immaculate porcelain bowl. Needs now met, I look around the quaint compact restroom. The harsh florescent lights that had illuminated my journey to a delightfully empty bladder transform the minty interior into a tacky near-neon green. The second I reach for the soap dispenser, the artificial odor of lavender aggressively fills the small room smelling like the unsuccessful results of scientists’ attempts at creating a scent they’d never actually experienced. With both my eyes and nose still under assault, I exit the bathroom and almost walk right into a little person.
“I’m so sorry,” I apologize. “I didn’t see you there.” Realizing how potentially offensive that statement could be when directed at a dwarf, I can feel the heat rising in my face. But the man doesn’t seem fazed, either by my apology or my blunder. He continues to stand there, in a bright orange Hawaiian shirt with palm trees on it, beige cargo shorts, and pink Adidas slides with purple socks, a decision I could never get behind.
“Follow me,” he orders as he turns around, his mullet swinging behind him in the process. He takes a few steps then turns to see if I’m following. I’m not.
“I said follow me.” Anger creeps into his previously apathetic voice. I realize he’s completely serious.
“Look, I don’t know who you are or what you want but there’s no way in hell I’m—” I stop short. He now has a gun pointed at my chest.
“I said follow me,” he repeats. This time I listen. We leave the corridor where the restrooms are located and which open up into the rest of the mostly empty café. The beige walls are carpeted with carefree couples, children, and dogs—all overly enthused at the prospect of watching people sip their coffee for the rest of eternity. Their watchful eyes seem to be mocking me. At the register, a barista is ringing up a customer.
“Help! Help! He’s got a gun!” I exclaim.
“So? That’s his Second Amendment right,” the barista responds without looking over.