In disgrace with fortune and men's eyes
"I think you're next," said the fat brunette in the zebra tube-top. She was standing next to David, almost at his shoulder, and she licked her fat lips.
"I think I am," he said, felt his shoes squeak as he turned. The café turned with him, and a thousand faces flashed before him before one finally distilled in awkward jerks five meters in front of him.
A girl: blonde, pink apron, watching him.
He walked up to the register, put one palm flat on the counter, and looked at the girl with a forced smile. Dark eyes, nice skin. The sun had been bright outside: he stared at her with tears welling up in his eyes, like there was a fog in the café, and her smile made him nervous.
"I'll have a large coffee," he said. "Please," he added.
"Room for cream?"
Her pink apron did not move as she spoke. Static, like her blue eye.
"No thanks, black."
"Well, the sugar's over there."
He tried not to flinch, and stared at his hand on the counter. Then he focused back on the image of the girl.
"And would you like a scone or an Italian biscuit today?"
"Okay, then that's a dollar ninety-two."
"Thanks," he said.
"Thanks," she said.
Someone behind her handed him the coffee.
He spent five minutes drinking it, and read two columns of the sports page.
He went back up to the counter. One of the lights coming from directly above him made his head hurt. David picked up an oversized bag of coffee beans, looked at the label without reading it, and then placed it back in its wicker basket.
His phone rang.
"I think you're next," said the fat brunette in the zebra tube-top.
"I think I am," he said, and felt his shoes squeak as he turned. The café turned with him, and five or six faces flashed before him as he focused on the girl's starched pink apron, the heat of her eyes made him swallow hard and fight to keep the eye contact.
The brunette was chewing gum he could hear. It clamped and slamped and smacked in his ear. An eternal spinning of gum and pretty girls behind the counter. He held his breath, and answered the phone.
Not recognizing the number, he didn't say anything at first.
"Hello?" asked the girl behind the counter. He could hear other voices in the distance, and when he closed his eyes he imaged the girl sitting in the middle of a row of endless white cubicles.
"Yes, hi," he said, and tried to make out her face in the distance. Blonde. Maybe brunette. Definitely not Black or Hispanic. "Sorry," he finally added.
"Yes, hi, I just wanted to inquire whether you're happy with your current phone plan."
"Oh," he said apologetically, "This really isn't a good time."
"Well I just wanted to ask you a few questions if that's ok," and her smile drew his gaze up from the counter.
"I just wanted to ask you a few questions if that's ok." Her tone was softer and her face sharpened a little in the distance.
Closer, closer, he was just a little too far to taste her breath.
He muffled a gasp as she snapped into focus: she looked like a girl from a department store coupon.