Setting exercise

First writing class assignment.

My hands are wearing a thin layer of cold so I wrap my left around the cup as well, interlocking the fingers with the right hand and and laying my thumbs one atop the other. The cardboard sleeve protects me from getting burned but the warmth that still escapes is nice. Using both hands to lift the cup I take the first sip. A bit of chocolate flavored foam and then the heat of the coffee. Always a bit too much heat for me the first time. I swish the cup counterclockwise for a while, probably destroying more of the foam, and then make another attempt.

This time I notice the foam touch my lips and am able to accept the slightly cooler slightly milkier coffee that slides in underneath it. Another sip, and I pay attention to the back of the roof of my mouth, the part that I imagine is directly connected to my brain. I can feel it relaxing, soothed by the incoming caffeine. I sigh and lower my shoulders while thinking that it’s too bad that my wife can’t have caffeine.

I glance out the window. The street is wet, a little damp but there are no big puddles. It’s late enough that there isn’t much traffic and there are no pedestrians out. At that moment the Broadway bus passes by blocking my view. I don’t always take the bus but I do it often enough that the passing of a bus is an event that I note automatically.

Another sip, and then I put the cup down on the table beside me, press my back lower into the sofa chair and spread my feet wider apart. The warmth of the coffee and of the room are leaching the tension from my body and the scent of fresh coffee soothes me. To the left are the baristas. The girl with streaked blond hair tied in a bun works behind the register. She notices my glance and smiles and I smile back. She’s here often when I come here but the young guy cleaning behind her is new. He looks very young and I wonder whether he’s still in high school. The blast from his cleaning efforts stops and I can hear the music again; Billie Holiday singing something I don’t recognize. I listen closer, reach for the coffee and take another sip, licking the foam from my lips. Billie’s voice gives way to a tenor sax solo, probably Lester Young though I still don’t recognize the song.

A big moving object momentarily blocks the window; another Broadway bus. What’s the timing at this time of day? 15 minutes between buses? 15 minutes couldn’t have gone by yet.

Then a voice comes from far to the left. “Sorry I’m late. Hope you didn’t mind waiting.”

It’s Paul arriving, taking off his coat, draping it over the chair opposite me, clapping me on the back.

“No,” I say, sitting myself upright and smiling. “No, I didn’t mind at all.”

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