"What a way to make a living!" I cry out, with the most passionate sarcasm that I could muster. The sounds of my cries echo across the plot, bouncing off metal beams and likely shattering the eardrums of my co-workers. A few of my colleagues turn to my direction, looks of concern mixed with fright decorating their faces; their brows scrunched together over their widened eyes, with their noses wrinkled at me. They soon shrug me off and resume their work, shaking their heads in either sympathy or annoyance. I cannot tell for sure from where I stand. It would not be entirely implausible to lose one's sanity under the sweltering heat of this humid Thursday afternoon, all the while working on a construction project, that is. But hey, money's money.
With debris scattered everywhere, one can tell that we've been here in this lot for a while. The smell of fresh cement and asphalt in the air, the splinters collecting wherever skin's been exposed, and the paint fumes probably killing off all of our brains cells – ahh, what a job. If only we were building something useful. But no – it had to be just another dreary office building taking up more space in this otherwise lovely Hawaiian city. At least it's not another one of those run-of-the-mill coffee shops.
Maybe I should have listened to my parents and pursued a career in engineering. Nope, I just had to follow my passion to become a record label executive. Look where that got me. Ah well, they do say making it in the music business is difficult – but I always thought that only applied to the artists.
"Jinendra!" I hear my name call out from behind me, snapping me out of my train of thought. Recognizing the voice probably too instantly, I put on my utmost flirtatious smile and spin myself around in order to face the person addressing me. From my reflection in a pane of glass that leaned against a portable bathroom stall before me, I watch as my dreadlocks fly through the air like acrobats around me, ending in a flourish. I take the opportunity to check myself out a bit, noting that my already earthy-brown complexion had gotten at least a shade darker under the heat of the bright, Hawaiian sun. Beautiful. The one who called out my name approaches me. My eyes travel up and down her buxom figure, finding her just downright adorable with those large goggles of hers framing her fierce, brown eyes. She had been working with some heavy duty equipment that required the eyewear – and, my gosh, you haven't lived until you've seen her operating that chainsaw of hers. The epitome of sexy.
She shambles herself over, pulling at a loose thread of wood hanging off of her clipboard. She bites her lip nervously as she tries to make eye-contact. I can't blame her, now can I? With these rare, androgynous good looks of mine, it's not uncommon to have others behave in such a manner around yours truly, y'know? My attractiveness can be quite intimidating, I've been told.
"Please, sweetie, call me Jin." I wink at her, tugging at the suspenders on my overalls as I saunter closer to her. She responds with the childish act of rolling of her eyes, her confidence returning with full-force. Now that's my Shay.
"Jinendra," Shay repeats in a cut-throat manner. "I need you to do me a solid."
"Alright, I'll bite. What can I do ya for, m'lady?" I run my tongue across my pearly whites, hands still gripping onto my suspenders.
"Coffee," she starts. "My usual coffee-guy is out sick today, and I'm kind of in the middle of something right now. Think you can run over and get me a cappuccino? Be my coffee guy? Or...Coffee girl…Coffee person?" She crosses her arms and twitches her brightly-painted red lips to the side. I smile at her efforts to find the correct gender pronoun to use for me. Not that I minded at all; I go by pretty much any.
"Ahh, but that's a liquid," I tease her, laughing out at my brilliant play on words and throwing my head back with my hook-shaped nose raised triumphantly in the air.
"Excuse me?" she retorts. Was my joke so amazing that it completely went over her head? It's quite possible.
"You told me to do you a solid. Coffee is clearly a liquid, unless it's the beans that you want me to collect for you." I look back down at her, smirking proudly at my quick wit. She rolls her eyes, yet again. Does she never tire of that motion? Her lovely eyes must be strained from rolling around all day long. Perhaps she should give them a break.
"So, ya in or ya out?" She drags her goggles up onto her head, a tad higher than her hairline. The protective eyewear had left a frame of indents around her eyes, which no one but my Shay could truly pull off. Now if only I could get her to pull off my–
"Jin!" Shay snaps, pulling me out of my incoherent thoughts. "If you don't wanna take the job, I'll just get Freddie to do it."
"What, that creep? Please, sweetheart, I got this." I tip my bright yellow construction hat at her.
"Ease up on that cockiness, Jinendra. I'm your supervisor, remember? Now get me that cappuccino," Shay retorts, shaking her head at me in such a disapproving manner. What? Did I offend her just now? Some people, I swear.
"Right, of course, Miss Shafir," I salute her, twirling myself around, and swaying my hips as I walk away. I turn my head to look behind me, hoping to catch her staring at my well-toned butt. Ugh. Negatory. She had turned around. Well, she's certainly missing out!
"Cappucino, tall," I order the barista. He nods at me, starting on the coffee. "No, wait…Make that a grande," I add, watching him grab a larger cup and pour the coffee from the previous one into the new one, then adding in some more.
"Whole milk okay?" he asks me, not bothering to look directly at me when asking the question. Rude. "And can I get your name?"
"Yes – and it's Jin," I state simply, my eyes wandering around the shop, studying the fancy art-deco-style chandeliers hanging above the other customers. Honestly, don't these folks have somewhere nicer to hang out than some overrated, over-priced coffee shop? These places are like a dime a dozen, but I suppose their abundance makes them convenient.
Wait a second. Would Shay want whole milk? What if she does not like whole milk? What if she finds it repulsive and wants skim milk instead? She had never expressed a dislike towards whole milk anytime I've spoken with her, but one can't be too careful. "Scratch that, sir. Can I change it to skim milk?" The barista looks up at me, raising a brow.
"You sure? I mean, I'm almost done with this one already…" he explains, gesturing to the cup in his hand. "You want me to start over?" Ugh,lazy. Honestly, is it really that hard to pour things into a cup and mix it?
"Yes, that's exactly what I want you to do," I tell him slowly, just to ensure that he understood me. Of course I want him to start over – it's not like he can somehow extract the whole milk from the coffee he's already made. It would be pretty damn amazing if he could, however. I'd pay good money to see that. The barista, or "Marcus," as his nametag states, goes ahead and pours the coffee he had already made into the sink. He started up a new one, using skim milk this time around.
Another thought springs up in mind. What if Shay is lactose intolerant? If she gets gassy and irritable, not only will that make her seem less attractive – she'd be less likely to give me a chance. I can't risk that! "Soy milk!" I announce aloud to this 'Marcus' individual.
"Excuse me?" He turns his head around to face me as his hands mix the cappuccino.
"I would like to change it to soy milk, Marcus – duh." I shake my head, appalled by his inattentiveness. "Keep up!" I notice him gritting his teeth, crushing the cappuccino cup in his hand. The hot beverage escapes due to the displacement, and runs down his hand like loose molten lava. Someone hasn't been getting their eight hours of sleep. "Doesn't that burn?" I ask him.
"Yes," he nods, forcing a menacing grin. "Yes, it does."
"Oh…Kay." I back away from the counter. "So, yes, make that with soy milk. Also, while we're at it, can you add one of those cheese Danishes to my order? Oh! And toast it. And can I get a glass of steamed milk, as well?" Marcus's lips tighten as he nods. What the heck is eating him?
"Alright…Anything else, sir?" he utters, adding a strangely intimidating emphasis onto the last word.
"No, that will do." I look over the rest of the pastries in the display. I walk around the shop for little while as I await my order, listening in to various conversations. How dull people in coffee shops can be sometimes, honestly. Not a single interesting conversation.
"Grande cappuccino – with soy milk, toasted cheese Danish, and steamed milk for Jin!" Upon hearing my name, I make my way back over to the counter, one hand in my pocket, searching for my wallet. Now where did I put it?
I look down at the coffee and sniff the air right above it. My face contorts. "Ew…You call this coffee? I can't believe I'm actually paying for this…This crappuccino." The barista glares up at me as he rings me up at the cash register.
"Seventeen dollars," he states coldly, clearly not amused by my ingenious punning. I continue digging through my pockets for my wallet. Ah! Here it is. I pull out the leathery billfold and sift through it, finding various coupons, receipts, and a few gum wrappers. No cash or cards, however. Did I leave them all at home today? I must have left them in my other pants! I notice Marcus watching my every move, silent yet noticeably irritated. What did I ever do to get treated as such? I'm just another customer.
"Well, Marcus sir…It seems that I am a bit short at the moment, but…" I lean my elbows onto the counter towards him. "I think we could maybe work something out, perhaps?" I offer, winking at him and flashing him a smile while I bat my thick eyelashes. He seems unamused. Hmmm, strange. This usually works, y' know? But I suppose I can't always win.
"Get out!" he booms, causing me to jump back a bit. Is that a pulsating vein on his temple there? This guy needs to relax.
"Fine, but I'll have you know that I'm never coming back here again!" I announce, making sure the entirety of the shop's customers could hear my voice.
"Promise?" he sneers as he stares daggers at me. This is no way to treat an almost-paying customer! I huff at him and make a bee-line for the door. Stupid garden-variety coffee shop. Horrible coffee, as well as appalling service – get it while it's hot! Not to mention their strange choice of a logo that makes absolutely no sense.
Now what? I stop outside the shop to think things through. Shay is still expecting that coffee. With no funds in hand, how am I supposed to –?
My thoughts are interrupted by the sight of a brown, eighteen-wheeler semi with the words "Jerry's Coffee Plantation" in large white letters across the side. Excellent.
As it halts at a red light, I seize the opportunity to hitch a ride, gripping onto a handlebar protruding from the side of it. Surely this would take me where I need to go. I will get you your coffee yet, Shay!
Well, a coffee plantation it certainly is. I inhale, taking in the smell of the freshly-grown coffee cherries. I look about me at the expansive plot of land, ready to take on my next mission. It's harvesting time!
I sneak off into the fields, collecting and pocketing as many of the strange berries as I can, evading the sight of the harvesters working the fields. I must be pretty damn stealthy – so far I've gone unnoticed and it's not exactly easy to miss a guy wearing a bright yellow hard-hat. I fill my pockets up to their capacity with the crimson coffee cherries, now plotting my next move as I look around for a way out. How the heck am I going to get back to the city?
"Hey you!" I hear a voice call from behind me. I spin around to find two men decked out in badges and black uniforms. What the heck are the cops doing here? I squint, trying to get a better look, and find that their uniforms don't quite look like police attire. Does that badge seriously say "Coffee Bean Patrol"? Unsure of what to respond, I blurt out the first excuse that comes to mind.
"Well…See…I'm a coffee bean inspector!" I examine their faces as they approach me. Yeah, they're definitely not buying it. I take a few steps backward, stumbling slightly over a rock before turning around and high-tailing it out of there.
"Hey! Get back here! We're calling the police!" they call out. Ah…So they aren't the police. Posers.
Thus, the chase begins. I maneuver through the plantation, swerving around and making tight turns whenever I can in order to evade my pursuers. I head towards the main road in hopes that I could hitch another ride. I don't doubt that I could out-run them on a good day, but I'm exhausted. As fit as my physique is, it's been a long day – and it just seems to keep getting longer. I notice a pick-up truck halt at a stop sign and take the chance. I dash over, right as the truck starts to move again. I glance back, noticing the "Bean Patrol" hot on my trail. With one giant leap, I manage to grab hold of the rim of the back of the pickup and pull myself in. I turn around to mock the so-called security guards in my victory, sticking my tongue out at them. Hey, I'm classy like that.
The ride back to the city is a quick, uneventful one. The guards stop chasing me after a little while after they realized that it would be a lost cause to chase after a moving vehicle on foot. I kind of needed a break from all that wildness, and the ride provided just that. I start to pit the beans out of the cherries along the way, giving myself something to do as I watch the back of the head of the driver, who fails to notice me the whole drive. Upon reaching the city, I hop out of the pick-up near the plot my construction crew is working away at. But now I'm stuck. It's not like I own a good coffee maker on my horrible construction-worker budget, and I highly doubt Shay would just want these coffee beans. Perhaps I could…
I look up at an office building next to me. Of course! These high-end centers of business always have fabulous coffee makers, don't they? But I'll have to try and blend in. Act like I belong.
I enter the building, whistling a merry tune and nodding at the men in suits about me. No one tends to suspect a fella in a bright yellow hard-hat. Good, this is working. But the façade would only last for so long until my cover's blown. They'll find out soon enough. I manage to make my way over to the nearest lounge, spotting the coffee-maker immediately. There must be dozens of those in a place like this. Surely they won't miss one. I unplug the hefty machine, lugging it away out of the building. I find it so strange that no one even bothers to try and stop me. Busy bees working away, I suppose?
"Hey, hardhat!" I turn around to find a security guard heading my way. As nervous as I am, I suck it up and stand with confidence.
"Yes?" I tuck the machine under my arm, flashing the guard a smile.
"Need help carrying that?" he asks. I attempt to mask my surprise at his words and regain composure.
"Nope. I'm good. But, thank you kind sir." I tip my hardhat at him with my free hand. He nods at me, then returns to his post. I sigh with relief as I speed-walk through the double doors of the entrance. I can't believe I got away with this. My dashing looks must be more powerful than I thought!
Well, now I needed to get right to making this stuff. Ugh. You better appreciate this, Shay. "Homeward!" I shout out loud, attracting the attention of passerbys that really ought to mind their own business. I shrug them off, running on home with a shiny new coffee-maker, pockets full of coffee beans, and the desire to impress my dear Shay.
"Ugh, water, boil faster!" I shout at the stove after about thirty seconds. Honestly, Shay cannot wait for chemistry or physics or whatever science it was that determines how fast water boils. Thinking on my feet, I devise a fool-proof plan and take the coffee pot over to the bathroom.
The shower water is always heated whenever I turn it on, right? Surely this will work much faster. I twist the knob labeled with an "H", then place the coffee pot under the steaming stream. "Perfect!" I yell triumphantly, hearing my next-door neighbor telling me to "shut up" through the small bathroom window. Why is it that every single person I meet turns out to be rude? I shrug it off, turning off the tap as the pot fills half-way.
I rush on over to the kitchen, pot in hand, to continue the brewing-process. Now how does this go? I pull the coffee beans out from my pockets, dumping them onto the table. I then grind them the best I can by smashing them with a rolling pin. More noise complaints from my nosy neighbor, of course, this time coming from the kitchen window. I sweep the now semi-powdered coffee substance into the pot, taking a spoon and mixing it all together. This may not be the professional way to make coffee, but you have to admit that it's innovative.
Milk! That's what I need! I set the pot down and dash over to the refrigerator. Forcefully pulling the door of the fridge open, I scan my eyes over its contents. No milk? Just your luck, Jin. I excavate the fridge for any sign of dairy products and happen upon my cinnamon and honey-flavored Greek yogurt. "Well, this will have to do," I mutter, grabbing the carton and slamming the fridge shut. I sigh, upset for this is my last one. I was planning on enjoying it for dessert tonight, but I suppose sacrifices must be made for Shay's sake. I rip off the sealed foil lid of the container, and dump the contents of it into the coffee pot, pouting as I take in the mouth-watering cinnamon-y smell of the yogurt.
The things I do for that woman.
"Here's your coffee, my sweet!" I proclaim, speed-walking over to the beautiful, plump woman that I've come to admire so much. I hold it out to her and she gives me a look of utter confusion, tilting her head as if trying to figure out what I was doing there. Did she not remember I was getting her coffee?
"Jinendra, it's been hours! Where the heck did you go? Some coffee house overseas?" She takes the coffee from my extended hand. "And why is this in a mug?" she asks, examining the cup I had brought it in. "Is this even a cappuccino? It doesn't look like it."
"You sure do ask a lotta questions," I chime in, smirking at her.
"Alright, so how much do I owe ya? You were gone so long it must've been a lotta trouble getting this coffee," Shay asks, reaching into her pocket. Oh, no, that won't do. I put my hand up to stop her.
"Please, Shay, it's on the house. It was nothing, really," I plead her, gazing into the chocolately pools of her irises. "I insist." Shay simply shrugs, sipping the coffee slowly, careful not to burn her lips upon contact. I watch in anticipation, biting down hard on my lip. Her nose wrinkles and her eyes squint in disgust as she pulls her face away from the mug, spitting out the concoction near her feet.
"This coffee tastes like shit," she deadpans, looking up at me. "You really oughta get a refund." I shrug, feeling a bit discouraged at her dislike of my coffee. Normally, if it were anyone else, I'd chock it up to their lack of taste and vision. Since it's Shay, I'll have to take her word for it. I guess the fact that I made it with love doesn't count for anything, after all. What a waste of my precious Greek yogurt.
"I suppose I should…" I agree, turning my head towards my work station. "Anyways, I should get back to work. I'm pretty damn behind now," I add facing her once again. She nods in agreement.
"Get to it, Jin! Time's money," she chides me, holding out her watch in front of her, pointing to it with her other hand, freeing a finger from the hold she had on the mug.
"Of course, m'lady," I oblige, proceeding to walk towards my station. I stop myself, turning around to ask of her one last-minute return-favor. "–And Shay? If the police come by looking for some guy who ran off with a Nespresso-brand coffee machine or a pocket full of coffee cherries, tell them you don't know anything."
"Should I even ask?"
"It's better if you don't."