Published on March 6th, 2012 | by Betty26
At The Coffee Shop
I think I have a favorite customer and another struts in. Towering heels, strappy sandals, colourful flats- even the men have taken to wearing coloured shoes now. I would never use my money to buy yellow shoes- never; not even red. But they are the wealthy of Abuja. They can afford to buy colourful shoes if they come here to buy coffee and cake for thousands of naira.
“Hey. Can I have two shots of Jack and a coke?”
“Sure sir. I’ll bring it to you.” He returns to his seat and I watch to note the table he’s seating at. I recognize the girl who’s peering at her phone. She’s one of my favorites. I used to base my favoritism on the size of the tips but over time, the flash of teeth and bits of conversation have endeared some to me more than a bulging back pocket. I turn to splash the spirit in the cups and sneer. He’ll be paying N6000 for just this but he’s not complaining, so who am I to?
I arrive at their table just in time to disturb the climax, I presume, of an enigmatic narration of some event by the boy. The girl’s eyes are glazed but she smiles genuinely when she sees me. At least, this is what I want to believe. I grin back at her.
“Would you like anything else?”
She looks pretty today. White. I see her brown leather Bible sitting on the table. Ah, so they’re coming from church. She might have read my mind because the next thing she does is wrinkle her nose at the glass I’ve placed in front of her. “Yes, actually. I want cake. This guy’s trying to force alcohol down my throat this sunny afternoon..”
“Which would you like?” I ask, as I try to stop my eyes from lowering to the lacy frills that hide her breasts.
“Definitely not those your rock-hard brownies!” Then she opens her mouth and lets out her tinkling laugh that sets me laughing too. I stand there, laughing along with her because we have a private joke Mr. Jack is clueless about.
She had come in one day with another young man with a stiff face and coloured shoes. After ordering the brownie, she had exclaimed how hard it was. I assured her it wasn’t abnormal, to which she had requested a cutlass. Mr. Stiff Face had missed the humor in it all and gasped in shock before muttering in a foreign accent- “These Nigerian girls!” She had raised the menu booklet to hide her face from him and then rolled her eyes at me and pretended to choke. I laughed for a long time after.
I catch Mr. Jack pointing a hard stare at me and I shut up; a tip would still be welcome. He reaches over to touch her hand, a subtle reminder of our positions and I clam up. “A white forrest?” He asks, gently stroking her long fingers. She pulls her hand away and says “No. A black forrest.” and I can’t help the wave of victory that suffuses me as I turn away from them.
“He likes you!” Mr. Jack says in a loud mocking whisper. My steps falter and an alien rage threatens to push me back to him and ram his pretty nose with my fist.
“So what, J? I like him too. Mind your business!”
And all is well with my world again.
I reach the counter to meet the take-over, Cynthia, ready for me. Time to swap.
“You’re here already?” Cynthia raises a brow and says nothing. Her face frightens me, I’ve never seen her smile or frown in the two weeks she’s been here. I relay the order to her and pull off my apron, quietening the disappointment of not returning to that table to bestow Mr. Jack with a smug grin.
I have a two-hour journey to the outskirts of town where I live and enough memories of this afternoon to relive on my trip.