Reflection - February 1, 2018
She’s a constant in my daily routine, someone who starts my morning off with just the right amount of enthusiasm, not overly zealous and loud, nor sleepy and uninspired. She’s like the first spring-flower, cheery and bright, the one that brings a smile to your face knowing warm weather and bright flowers are upon us.
Today, like most, after my daughter waves good-bye through the window pane of the school bus, I traipse around the towering old homes in my neighborhood in Victoria. After my walk, I know I will be greeted, with a pleasant daffodil smile, a warm latte, a muffin, and the quiet of the intimate coffeehouse where I’ll read the Times Colonist at my leisure.
Hidden behind the ebony-dyed hair, tattooed arms, and fake diamond stud in her right nostril, is her merry voice welcoming me each morning as she asks, “The usual?” But today is different. Something is off. My friendly barista doesn’t look directly into my eyes. Her tone is dull and muddled as she inquires, “The usual?” She drops her head slightly, her mid-length black hair normally tied behind her head, now flows freely about her cheeks.
“Yes, the usual,” I answer. She lifts her head slightly. Barely peaking through her thick make-up I notice a burnt orange-hued bruise around her eye. Today, her tatted arms are covered in a long-sleeved black blouse. I wonder. I want to ask her what happened, but I don’t.
As she tries to hand me my drink, I wrap both my hands around hers. She’s still holding the cup. Sheepishly, she looks up at me. I am careful with my question. I know what it’s like to hide, to deny, being afraid and embarrassed. I lean in and whisper “Are you okay?”
Tears form in the corners of her eyes. Gingerly, she squeezes my hand. Softly, haltingly, she answers, “Yes.” But I notice that her head tentatively shakes no. The twang of the bell on the door announces new customers have arrived. Abruptly, she releases my hand and turns toward them with a subtle greeting.
I sit. I sip. And I pretend to read the paper, but I cannot concentrate. I can’t focus on the news of the day when my news is that something is very wrong at my coffee shop, very wrong with Ebony. I take the napkin, soiled from the muffin crumbs, and write down my name and number. I walk over to the counter. She turns and I hand the folded napkin to her. “If you need anything, you can give me a call. I’ve written down my number.” Ebony takes the napkin and places it in her jeans front pocket.
I have trouble sleeping that night. I wonder what happened to Ebony. I’m pretty sure she’s hiding something. When I had black eyes and bruises, I tried to hide them too. Ebony is a reflection of me years ago; hiding, embarrassed, and ashamed. I hope she calls.
The next morning, instead of taking the circuitous route through my neighborhood, I walk straight to my local coffee shop. Ebony isn’t there. Instead there is a twenties-something girl with dark blond hair rubber-banded neatly out of her face, behind her head. She doesn’t know me. She doesn’t know my order, my usual. More importantly, she doesn’t know what happened to Ebony.
I miss Ebony. I miss her spring-flower morning voice. I wonder if I could have helped. I wish I had done more. I wish she had called. Damn.
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