(We're in a Starbucks. The sign on the door says KNOCK AND WE WILL LET YOU IN. There are only a handful of customers, all who are standing spread apart from each other. The chairs have been stacked and placed on the tables upside down so that nobody may be tempted to sit down on them. There are only two employees, Cynthia who is not wearing any makeup, and Steven who is not wearing any hair gel).
Steven: Hey Cynthia.
(Cynthia ignores him. She's busy fixing a frappucino.)
Cynthia: One tall frappucino, for Amanda!
Steven: Um, sorry. (Cynthia sees him coming towards her and backs away six feet, annoyed. He looks over at a girl who approaches him, but remains at a distance) You said you wanted an extra pump of hazelnut, right? (Cynthia groans and covers her face)
Girl: Um, yes, I did.
Steven: Coming right up. (He goes over and adds the pump of hazelnut then hands it to her.) Have a wonderful day. (He backs away so the girl can intercept her drink) You okay, Cynthia?
Cynthia: Yes, I'm doing fine, I just...(she groans and turns away, to mind her own business)
Steven: Hey, Cynthia.
Cynthia: What? (There are tears in her eyes)
Steven: Sorry, I'm not trying to reprimand you-
Cynthia: No, no, I'm not worried about that. It's just...(she tries to blink away the tears) I'm at a sensitive time of the month, if you can understand-
Steven: Oh, totally. No worries. (He pauses) I hope this whole manager thing doesn't bother you-
Cynthia: You know, Eddy can do whatever he wants. And I don't care. I think you're going to make a wonderful manager, Steven, I said it and I still believe it, you don't need to worry about
Steven: I know that, but I'm still worried that it bothers you. I know you really wanted the job. (He pauses) I can ask Eddy to give it to you, you know, put in a good word, I know you really need the promotion-
Cynthia: No, Steven, do not-
Steven: Your rent-
Cynthia: (Standing up and backing away) Six feet!
Steven: Right! (He freezes awkwardly, and then Cynthia puts her hands down.) Sorry, I keep-
Cynthia: (Sighing) No need to apologize. I just, I need some time to myself. I know you want to help because you're a sweetheart, but there's no need. I'll figure it out somehow.
Steven: Cynthia, please, it's no trouble to me-
Cynthia: I do not want to have this conversation anymore, sorry! (She walks off. A young man knocks on the doors to the Starbucks. Steven looks and sees a young man wearing a mask and some rather expensive hypebeast streetwear. Although quite tall, even he is not as tall as Steven. Steven opens the door to let him in, making sure to back away as he walks through the entryway)
Taewon: You guys still open?
Steven: Yes, we're just downsized on account of, um, well you know. (Taewon nods) Sorry, we'll be with you in just a minute. (Friendly waiter voice) What would you like?
Taewon: Can I get just a grande cold black coffee, no ice, and a tomato panini to go?
Steven: Sure thing, let me just check that we have the panini. Although, to be honest, we haven't been selling as many as normal, so we probably do. (He goes behind the counter and rummages around, getting things.) Oh! By the way, what is your name?
Taewon: It's Taewon.
Steven: Thank you, and how do you spell it?
Taewon: Uh...T, A, E, and then "won" as in "I won the lottery."
Steven: Cool, thank you! (He ducks down and starts fiddling around with stuff.)
(Cynthia returns, looking bleary eyed and reluctantly tugging on her mandated sanitary gloves. As she notices Taewon, her eyes widen and she immediately realizes she is not where she needs to be at the moment)
Cynthia: Oh, so sorry! Did someone take your order yet?
Taewon: Yeah, he did. (He points at Steven, who is goodnaturedly humming as he writes Taewon's name on a sandwich bag)
Cynthia: Oh my goodness! Sorry, I'll - it'll be a moment, thank you for waiting! (She rushes over to Steven and waves at him frantically, trying to catch his attention without touching him) Steven! Drink?
Steven: Right here- (He moves to hand her a plastic cup that he labeled, and she immediately hisses and recoils as if it were on fire)
Cynthia: SIX FEET! Steven, do you not remember?
Steven: Sorry! Sorry, it's a habit-
Cynthia: Whatever, just put it down and I'll pick it up! (Steven looks at her, then calmly puts the cup down. Cynthia immediately snatches it up and starts making the order.)
(Taewon looks around, hands in his pockets, not seeing much. He decides to walk over and strike a conversation with Steven, who is patiently waiting by the microwave for the panini.)
Taewon: So, you guys still getting business these days?
Steven: Yeah. People are scared but I mean, they still want their coffee. (He taps his fingers idly.) And the upper management wants their money. (He sighs) Rent and everything...how's things working out for you?
Taewon: Not great, think I might go back to visit my mother.
Steven: Oh, really?
Taewon: Yeah, she has an apartment that's isolated from all the chaos. Plus the cases are dropping in South Korea now so, we figure it'll be safer than staying here. Only problem is, we're not sure if they'll let me leave the states.
Steven: Oh, that's rough. Sorry to hear that. I hope you manage to make it out.
Cynthia: (Shrilly) One grande black coffee, no sugar!
(Taewon walks over and inspects it. Cynthia puts her hands on her hips, glaring at him and waiting for him to finish.)
Taewon: Um, sorry but, I thought I said no ice?
Cynthia: (Aggressively) Did you?
Steven: (Walking over) Okay, Cynthia...(She reluctantly backs away six feet to allow him.) I can remove the ice, if you want.
Taewon: No, it's fine, you can just leave it like that.
Steven: You sure? It's no trouble, it'll only take me like six seconds-
Taewon: Oh, well in that case, sure. (Steven takes the drink, brings it to the sink and starts scooping ice out)
Cynthia: Steven, what are you-
Steven: Oh, can you check on the panini? I think it's ready!
(Cynthia swivels around and power walks to the microwave, which only contains Taewon's panini. Grumbling, she gingerly extracts it and then pinches the paper bag between her thumb and index finger, trying to make as little contact as possible as if it were infected. Finally, she walks over and places it on the countertop for Taewon to pick up.)
Cynthia: Tomato panini for...(She reads the name, and mispronounces it.) Ty-won.
(Taewon silently looks over the panini and doesn't pick it up. Instead, he turns his gaze to Steven, who has finished scooping out all the ice and is now re-covering the lid of his coffee. Steven walks over holding the coffee.)
Steven: Here you go!
Cynthia: Wait, no-
Taewon: (Taking the coffee) Thank you. (He picks up the panini as well, and makes his way out, without stopping to let Cynthia or Steven open the door for him.)
Cynthia: Steven, did you wash your hands before you did that?
Steven: Of course I did! I always do! Why are you getting on my case so much today? You're the one who's being weirdly aggressive to the customers. If I didn't step in, I bet you would have scalped him!
Cynthia: (Irritated) I don't need you to manage me, Steven. I'm a grown adult.
Steven: And I am aware of that! But you're not acting very 'grown' right now, if you get what I mean. You're practically scaring the customers away with your attitude.
Cynthia: Oh, stop acting like we WANT to get more customers. Ideally, NOBODY should be coming, but what can you do? Some idiots just can't live a day without their fucking hazelnut frappucino. (Pause) And why do you care if I scare them away, anyway? You really think just because you're a manager now, it's your job to boss me around?
Steven: What people take comfort in is none of our business. Besides, I'm not doing this because I'm trying to micromanage you, I'm just saying...you're not being very polite to-
Cynthia: Well if you were an actually good manager, you would know that you're not supposed to be scooping ice out of a customer's drink with your bare hands or chatting with him right next to your face because WE ARE IN A PANDEMIC!
Steven: (Frustrated) I know that! (Tears start leaking out of Cynthia's eyes and she makes to wipe them, then realizes she cannot, and goes over to a trash can to throw away her gloves.) I just...look, I'm sorry, I forgot, okay? I'm pretty sure I don't have corona. And anyway, like I said, I DID wash my hands. Twenty seconds and all. (He rubs his hands together, miming the washing hands motion, and changes he pitch of his voice to sound more like Lizzo) It ain't my fault that I'm out here getting loose, gotta blame it on the Goose, gotta blame it on my J-
Cynthia: You said it'd take six seconds!
Steven: I just said that so he wouldn't think he was bothering me.
Cynthia: Well, then you should've let him think that he was, and just leave! Now is not the time to act all hospitable, you understand? Now is the time to be efficient and to make people exit as quickly as possible.
Steven: (Lamely putting his hands back at his sides) Like a chicken processing plant.
Cynthia: Yes! Exactly. That's what a good manager should be exercising in this time.
Steven: Okay. (He sighs, and turns away) You know what, never mind. Let's just close up the place. (Cynthia freezes, and looks at him incredulously) I don't think Eddy will even notice, he's all the way in the Bahamas anyway, not like he can check up on us.
Cynthia: Wait...Steven, stop. Wait.
Steven: It's fine. (He sighs) Just go home, Cynth. You're right. We don't need to stay open.
Cynthia: No, it's just...(She looks around) I realize now that what I said was probably really hurtful, I...I'm sorry, I lied. I really did want the manager role. I keep taking it out on you and it's not fair of me. (She sighs, and makes to move closer, but Steven holds out his hands and backs away, and she stops.) I'm sorry, really, can you forgive me? You are right, I can see now that I've been kind of a bitch today.
Steven: It's really nothing. (He starts cleaning some of the pitchers they used to make the drinks) I'll do the rest. Go home.
Cynthia: (Frowning) I'm not letting you clean up by yourself. That's bad coworker etiquette.
Steven: I'm not your coworker. I'm a manager.
Cynthia: Yeah, yeah. (She reaches for the pitcher, and Steven immediately lets go of it and backs away six feet) Okay, okay, I see now that I was overreacting.
Steven: No, stay away! Six feet only. (He turns around and starts washing a different pitcher, banging it on the edges of the sink. Cynthia rolls her eyes)
Cynthia: But seriously, we DO need to obey the precautions. I don't know if you understand it, but if I get the virus, I'm fucking done. Game over. No health insurance, no boyfriend to shoulder the bills, rent is due and I need every single hour of every single day to pay for it dollar by dollar. I can't take a break, you understand-
Steven: (Grumbling) Fine, we can stay open if you want, just keep six feet away from me-
Cynthia: You weren't acting like this until I brought it up. (Pause) Why aren't you trying to stick to the regulations, Steven? Why are you trying to bend them?
Steven: I don't know! I think if I stay in my apartment for one more minute, I'm gonna go fucking crazy! I've had enough of standing there, pacing around, and then finally lying down once it's an acceptable hour to do so. All my friends are quarantined with their significant other and fuck, I don't have a boyfriend either, Cynthia! I spent so many years isolated but I promised myself, now that I've graduated, this year is the one I'll finally let myself live. Maybe I keep extending these customer encounters because fuck, I'd give anything to have any human interaction, even if it's with you acting all petty and aggressive to me. But really, I just wanted to have a good break for once, Cynthia. And then this whole virus shit just had to happen, and...(He sniffs, then realizes something) Wait...did your grandmother...it wasn't...
(Cynthia stiffens, then sighs. She looks at her pitcher and smacks it with a spoon.)
Cynthia: Yes, it was. (She sighs) She wouldn't listen to me when I told her I could shop for her. Fatal decision. (Steven looks really unhappy and horrified now.) Oh, don't make that face, please.
Steven: I am...so, so sorry. I did not realize that. (He looks down) All this time I've been a selfish dick. I'm so sorry-
Cynthia: No, it's not your fault. You didn't know. Besides...you wrote that guy's name down even though he was the only customer, right? I know you're not a selfish dick. (Steven doesn't look up from his shoes, so she narrows her eyes.) I feel like you're compensating for something though. You know, there's no need to put on this happy cheery facade. I mean, you don't have to be a bitch like me, but you also don't have to pretend to be on cloud nine.
Steven: Well...truth is, I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I just came out of a suicide attempt and Eddy put me back into work immediately, so if I seem off that's probably why-
Cyntia: (Shocked) Wait, what? This is the first time I'm hearing this. What?
Steven: It's not as bad as it sounds-
Cynthia: Steven, that's not normal. (He winces) I mean, that is not how Eddy should have managed this, how recent did this-
Steven: Right, right, I get it, cause you'd be such a better manager than me. I got it the first time, Cynthia.
Cynthia: No, I'm not even trying to talk about that, I mean- what the hell! You just came back from a suicide attempt?
Steven: (Uncomfortably) Well yes, but I didn't really come here to talk in detail about it-
Cynthia: That's...you should not be working right now! (Steven stares at her, and she yanks the pitcher out of his hands, making him jump back) What the hell? Go home now!
Steven: (Offended) I thought I was doing pretty good, all things considered-
Cynthia: I'm calling you in sick! And don't come back until you've had a good day. Jesus, what the hell? After something like that, you should NOT be working! Bloody hell...
Steven: Cynthia, I know you care, but it's not that serious...I'm fine, you know, the hospital released me and everything-
Cynthia: Give yourself a damn break, man! You're highly vulnerable and under stress right now. I don't want to see you making anyone's frappucinos except for your own. Go! (Steven hesitates, looking at her) Shoo! Shoo! I'll handle it, don't you worry.
Steven: You could just throw me under the bus and take my promotion-
Cynthia: I swear on my mother's grave that I will not throw you under the bus! (Steven blinks, widemouthed) Go!
(Steven stops and looks at his shoes, then he looks back at Cynthia)
Steven: But I'm fine, Cynthia, really...I don't mind-
Cynthia: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF! Go home.
Steven: Oh...okay, if you insist. (He walks out)
(We are back in Steven's apartment. He is kind of sulky. His phone rings, and he checks it. It's Cynthia.)
Cynthia: Are you eating?
Steven: Uh, no-
Cynthia: This is why I made you leave! You always overwork yourself and don't eat dinner. Fuck, Steven! If you want to not get the virus, you should be eating and sleeping as much as you possibly can! AND self-isolating! Your immune system may be young, but it's not magical!
Steven: But...but, you're still working-
Cynthia: You can afford to take a break. I can't! So do it for me, please. (He sighs)
Steven: I just...I don't want to be here anymore. (He sobs) I've had enough of this fucking place.
Cynthia: I know...but you also need to stay alive. (He sighs)
Steven: You're right. (He sighs again) I guess maybe, I was secretly hoping to catch the virus or starve. I haven't entirely given up on, on killing myself. (He looks around) I feel like I can't see past my nose anymore...there's absolutely nothing over there. Everything is so out of focus.
Cynthia: You're depressed. (He sighs) You can be cured, though. So do it! Eat well, sleep well, and come back once you've finished both your quarantine AND improved.
Steven: But what about you? I can't fucking leave you to man the whole place by yourself.
Cynthia: Well...(She pauses) I can handle it. Plus I get your salary.
Steven: I don't think that's how this works.
Cynthia: Yes, it is. Eddy will give it to you, and then you can pay me for clocking the hours. You said there's no way he'll check up anyway.
Steven: Yeah...we don't even have fucking security cameras. (He sighs, then lays back on his bed, staring at the ceiling)
Cynthia: And when I said, eat something, I mean something REAL. NOT a tomato panini.
Steven: (Chuckling) You got me.
Cynthia: (Groaning) REAL food!
Steven: Okay. (He flops onto his side and looks at the walls) Sorry for trying to kill myself.
Cynthia: Don't apologize for that!
Steven: But I guess I'd be leaving you all alone, like I am right now, and...kind of a dick move. (He makes to sit up) I should go back, shouldn't I-
Cynthia: NO! Fucking stay there until you've finished your 14 days like a good boy. (He sighs) I'm your manager now, do you understand?
Steven: Fine. (He sighs.)