The man with the dirtiest hands

Dirty Hands(Full disclosure: I stole this one out of an old notebook from high school, when I was a barista in an espresso bar.)

You grab your small coffee.

Medium, if it’s early.

You hand over your change with hands that are careful and calloused.

I feel guilty for hesitating at your touch, but – you have the dirtiest hands I’ve ever seen. As if it wouldn’t matter if you washed them.

I’m intrigued by the bits of you I’ve collected. How you refuse to accept the title “sir,” pretend you’d never argue with a woman, and wouldn’t take a million dollar prize – you’d rather earn it. You clean up real nice when it suits you, but your rugged voice never does quite match the suit.

You don’t look like the type who has a lot to spare, yet whether for a friend or a stranger, the coffee is always on you.

Your name is D***, I think you said? You fix roofs and you prefer to wear a hat; I can tell. You tip so nicely, with a wink telling me that I know where that change should go. You’re messy, but a gentleman.

Each time you return, I try to remind myself that the dirt is only earth coating your palms and fingers.

That character doesn’t develop in the shower.


The Brooklyn barista

The coffee shop employee in Brooklyn

He smiles so hard it makes you happy and exhausted all at once. Makes you remember the days when you had smiles like exhalations; one with every breath.

He seems to genuinely want to give you something to warm your belly or cool your overheated vessel. Perhaps it’s gratifying to provide the liquid that refuels; that many deem more important than kindness.

Maybe he’s forcing it, but it’s a good sell.

These streets of asphalt and exhaust fumes, aren’t they known for being full of vehicles – mechanical and otherwise – that go fast and hard and harried?

Yet here you are, smiling before sunrise, steeping me something sweet.

You told me to have a nice day. Sometimes, when genuine, that sticks.